A wife’s dower interest in her husband’s real property has been recognized in Michigan since the time of its statehood in 1857. On December 27, 2016 the Michigan legislature presented a package of bills to Governor Synder eliminating dower in Michigan except for a widow whose husband died before the bills’ effective date. Alleged dower rights have been clouding title on Michigan properties for decades. The right of dower is a contingent estate that vests on the husband’s death. However, dower rights protect the wife before death as well. A husband is precluded from transferring real property owned by him without his wife’s consent. Michigan’s dower laws are specifically written for wives only. After the Supreme Court ruled that states must recognize same sex marriage, there was a realization in the legal community that Michigan courts faced a potential wave of litigation because of the specific wording of the statute. Due to the constitutional pitfalls and additional issues created with trying to amend the statute, the majority of the legislature decided to repeal the dower statutes in their entirety.
In today’s society, these bills will abolish outdated statutes in Michigan and importantly, eliminate the necessity and expense of clearing title issues raised by underwriters for rights that most lawyers agree would never be exercised.