Since 1787 dower has provided wives (but not husbands) with a one-third life interest in their husband’s real property.
Even after women were allowed to own property in Michigan in the mid-1800s, the state legislature felt that women were still not on equal economic footing with men. Dower remained to prevent a husband from disinheriting his wife by transferring property without his wife’s consent; giving rise to the requirement that a wife must sign all real estate deeds made by her husband even if her name was not on the property.
Effective April 6, 2017, Michigan will abolish the doctrine of dower.
Impetus for the elimination of dower came from the 2015 US Supreme court case, Obergefell, which held that states must recognize and license same-sex marriages. Michigan was one of the last states with dower, and the only one that still granted dower rights exclusively to women. After the legislation only six states retain some form of dower rights.
The relative rights of spouses in marital property are an integral part of our estate planning practice. In previous newsletters we have addressed prenuptial agreements, spousal rights in inherited property, the impact of divorce on estate planning, and protecting your assets from the failed marriages of your children.
Please contact us you have concerns about the implications of divorce on your estate plan.
This Newsletter is considered general information and is not intended to constitute individual legal advice. Please contact us if you think the information herein impacts you directly. We look forward to speaking with you soon.