What Is the Application of Dower and Curtesy?

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Dower and curtesy are old-fashioned terms that refer to married spouses’ property rights. These rights most typically occur in situations including death and inheritance. However, they might also occur in other contexts and may prevent one spouse from selling or transferring property without the consent of the impacted partner.


Dower is a better half’s interest in her partner’s property. When her hubby dies, the other half is entitled to a specific percentage or value of her spouse’s property if he died without a will. If he did leave a will, she can normally elect to take her dower rights instead of a lower quantity left in the will.


Curtesy is a spouse’s interest in his spouse’s property. In some states the quantity of dower and curtesy were various in spite of having the exact same intent besides the sex of the person providing the right. Laws have actually mainly altered so that the dower and curtesy rights are the same.

Application of Dower and Curtesy Concepts

Dower and curtesy laws have actually mainly overruled these rights. A couple of states still recognize these rights. These rights are intended to protect the surviving spouse. In case a spouse dies without a will, these rules safeguard the amount and value of property that can be drawn from the decedent’s estate. Dower and curtesy rights are based upon state law. In some states, these rights do not apply until a particular event has occurred, such as the death of the other partner.

Other Implications

When buying or selling property, it is likewise essential to be acquainted with these principles. If a partner is wed and does not have his/her partner sign the deed, the purchaser can rescind the purchase because the seller can not supply marketable title to it.

Elective Share

Many states have eliminated dower and curtesy in favor of the “elective share.” Under this kind of law, the partner can either take what is left in the will or the share that is provided under law. Some states have basic shares for all partners, such as one-third or one-half of the estate. In other states, the quantity of the elective share depends on the length of the marital relationship. A state may offer 3 percent of the estate if the couple has been married less than a year up to a certain amount, normally after 10 years of marriage.

Waiving Rights

Spouses might have the ability to waive their dower, curtesy or optional share rights. They may do so by signing a prenuptial contract or legitimate postnuptial arrangement. Some states have various guidelines regarding what kind of document must be put in place to waive or forfeit these rights.

Legal Help

Individuals who are worried about dower or curtesy rights may decide to call an estate planning attorney for support. She or he may explain a client’s rights as well as the rights of the other spouse. He or she may draw up a deed, prenuptial contract or postnuptial contract that clarifies or waives these rights. Furthermore, she or he might describe to a partner what she or he is entitled to on the occasion that a waiver has actually not been made.