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Michigan Abolishes Dower Rights

Effective April 6, 2017, dower rights in Michigan are abolished. Dower is a centuries old legal principle that a wife has an interest in a portion of all real property owned by her husband during their marriage. The common law principal of dower was codified in MCL 558.1, et. seq. It provided a widow with the use, during her lifetime, of 1/3 of all real property owned by her husband during their marriage. It is because of dower rights that a male grantor's marital status appears on deeds in Michigan. It is also the reason a wife must sign a deed when her husband is transferring real property only he owns.

MCL 558.30 abolishes both common law and statutory dower in Michigan, and it takes effect April 6, 2017. There is an exception for a widow whose husband dies prior to April 6, 2017. Given this new change in law, there will no longer be a need for a wife to sign a deed conveying real property owned by her husband alone or to indicate on a deed the marital status of a male grantor.

However, even with the elimination of dower, a lender is still going to require a wife sign a mortgage on a re-finance of the couple's primary residence when the home is owned solely by the husband. The converse is also true. A husband will continue to be required to sign the mortgage on the couple's home when the property is owned solely by his wife. This requirement arises out of homestead rights found in MCL 600.6023. Unlike dower, which only applies to the wife, homestead applies equally to both husband and wife. However, homestead only applies to the couple's principal residence and does not apply to investment property or second homes.

For any questions concerning dower or homestead rights in Michigan, please contact Laurie Raab at Hertz Schram at 248-335-5000 or [email protected]

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