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Dower rights abolished

Any person who deals with real estate in Michigan has run across an odd law regarding a wife’s “dower interest” in property owned by her husband. The concept of dower extends as far back as the Magna Carta in 1215, when English nobles wanted assurance that when they died, their widows would receive some portion of their land. (At that time, any land owned by a nobleman at the time of his death automatically reverted to the king, leaving the widow destitute.)

The concept has evolved somewhat, and until recently a woman automatically owns a “one-third life estate in all real property owned by her husband” in Michigan. That means that even if property is in a man’s sole name, he must have his wife agree to any sale or mortgage.

However, Michigan has finally come out of the Dark Ages and abolished the concept of dower rights. Effective April 6, 2017, dower rights no longer exist, unless the husband/owner died before that date.

The attorneys at Creighton McLean & Shea PLC, as always, stand ready to help their clients negotiate the intricate and arcane laws governing real estate, wills, and other legal matters.