Dower and curtesy are old-fashioned terms that describe married partners’ property rights. These rights frequently arise in circumstances including death and inheritance. They may likewise develop in other contexts and might avoid one partner from selling or transferring property without the permission of the affected spouse.


Dower is a partner’s interest in her partner’s property. When her hubby dies, the other half is entitled to a certain portion or worth of her husband’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 amount left in the will.


Curtesy is a partner’s interest in his other half’s property. In some states the amount of dower and curtesy were different regardless of having the very same intent besides the sex of the individual supplying the. However, laws have largely altered so that the dower and curtesy rights are the very same.

Application of Dower and Curtesy Concepts

Dower and curtesy laws have actually largely struck down these rights. A few states still acknowledge these rights. These rights are planned to safeguard the making it through spouse. In case a spouse passes away without a will, these rules safeguard the quantity and value of property that can be taken from the decedent’s estate. Dower and curtesy rights are based upon state law. In some states, these rights do not apply till a particular occasion has actually taken place, such as the death of the other spouse.

Other Ramifications

When purchasing or selling property, it is also essential to be acquainted with these concepts. If a spouse is married and does not have his/her partner sign the deed, the buyer can rescind the purchase since the seller can not supply marketable 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 supplied under law. Some states have basic shares for all spouses, such as one-third or one-half of the estate. In other states, the amount of the elective share depends upon the length of the marriage. For example, a state may offer three percent of the estate if the couple has been married less than a year approximately a particular quantity, normally after 10 years of marriage.

Waiving Rights

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

Legal Assistance

Individuals who are concerned about dower or curtesy rights might decide to call an estate planning lawyer for support. She or he may describe a client’s rights in addition to the rights of the other partner. She or he might prepare a deed, prenuptial arrangement or postnuptial contract that clarifies or waives these rights. Additionally, he or she may describe to a spouse what he or she is entitled to on the occasion that a waiver has not been made.