Dower rights originate in England and were brought to colonial America at a time when it was mostly men who owned property. After death, properties would be signed over automatically to a man's eldest son or the husband of his eldest daughter, Dower rights ensured that if the husband died, the wife would have interest in the property of a third of its value, financial reward should the property be sold and the right to stay in the property after the husband's death. Dower rights also mean the wife can remain on the property until her death regardless of any debts owed on the property and the property could not be foreclosed as long as the widow was alive.
Today, dower rights also apply to men. Due to the significance of dower rights in law, mortgage companies will not give a loan for a property solely to a husband or wife unless the other partner releases their dower rights. This is to avoid the non-owning partner claiming dower rights if the mortgage company has to foreclose on the property.
If a quit claim deed is filed to transfer property between spouses, all dower rights of the grantor that would have been automatically transferred to them by law on the death of the grantee would automatically be released. Legal advice should be considered when filing a quit claim deed for this reason.
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