What Is the Application of Dower and Curtesy?

Dower and curtesy are old-fashioned terms that describe married spouses’ property rights. These rights frequently develop in circumstances involving death and inheritance. However, they might likewise arise in other contexts and may avoid one spouse from selling or transferring property without the approval of the affected spouse.


Dower is a better half’s interest in her partner’s property. When her husband dies, the spouse is entitled to a particular portion or worth of her other half’s property if he passed away without a will. If he did leave a will, she can generally elect to take her dower rights rather of a lower amount left in the will.


Curtesy is a hubby’s interest in his better half’s property. In some states the quantity of dower and curtesy were various regardless of having the very same intent besides the sex of the person offering the right. However, laws have actually largely altered so that the dower and curtesy rights are the very same.

Application of Dower and Curtesy Principles

Dower and curtesy laws have mainly struck down these rights. However, a couple of states still recognize these rights. These rights are planned to secure the surviving spouse. In case a spouse passes away without a will, these guidelines safeguard the quantity and worth of property that can be drawn from the decedent’s estate. Dower and curtesy rights are based on state law. In some states, these rights do not apply until a certain occasion has taken place, such as the death of the other spouse.

Other Ramifications

When purchasing or selling property, it is likewise crucial to be acquainted with these concepts. If a partner is wed and does not have his/her spouse sign the deed, the buyer can rescind the purchase because the seller can not supply valuable title to it.

Elective Share

Many states have eliminated dower and curtesy in favor of the “optional share.” Under this kind of law, the spouse can either take what is left in the will or the share that is offered under law. Some states have standard shares for all spouses, such as one-third or half of the estate. In other states, the quantity of the elective share depends upon the length of the marital relationship. A state might provide 3 percent of the estate if the couple has been married less than a year up to a specific quantity, normally after 10 years of marriage.

Waiving Rights

Spouses might be able to waive their dower, curtesy or elective share rights. They may do so by signing a prenuptial contract or legitimate postnuptial contract. Some states have various rules regarding what type of document should be put in location to waive or forfeit these rights.

Legal Assistance

Individuals who are worried about dower or curtesy rights may choose to call an estate planning lawyer for help. She or he might discuss a client’s rights in addition to the rights of the other spouse. He or she might prepare a deed, prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement that clarifies or waives these rights. In addition, he or she might explain to a spouse what he or she is entitled to on the occasion that a waiver has not been made.