Dower is Dead. So What Happens Next?

A few months ago, Julie Cotant wrote an excellent piece announcing Michigan’s abolition of dower, an ancient principle that gives a widow the right to use her late husband’s lands for the remainder of her life. The new law, which brings Michigan into line with all other states, became effective April 7, 2017.

Although dower was rarely invoked (I’ve never seen it in 25 years of practice!), its repeal will impact many married couples:

Husbands who own real estate in just their names can now convey that real estate without their wives’ consent.

Dower rights will no longer have to be addressed in divorce judgments and separation agreements.

Wives should no longer have to be named as defendants in condemnation proceedings involving property owned solely by their husbands.

Despite the elimination of dower, a wife’s consent is still required in any conveyance entered into by her husband prior to April 7, 2017, and both spouses will continue to have to sign any mortgage refinance of their principal residence. Further, all documents recorded with a county register of deeds office must still recite the marital status of the male parties.

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