Dower Rights: What you need to know

Imagine this scenario, a couple have not only found their dream home, they have found a buyer for their starter home. They have set a closing date, found a great real estate closing attorney and the buyer’s loan has been approved.

Two days before closing, one spouse announces they have to attend a business meeting out of the country and will not be back before the closing. Two days later, the other spouse appears at the closing attorney’s office and tells the attorney that the other spouse is out of the country but it is no big deal because they are the sole owner of the property. The closing attorney then proceeds to say that the closing cannot occur and begins to talk about a little issue called dower rights.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. What are dower rights? Dower rights, also known as marital rights, are the privileges that a person has in property possessed by his or her spouse. In most states, if an individual owns personal property during a marriage, their spouse has a right to a third of the property. Granted, there are some circumstances where a spouse would not have such rights but most often, a spouse does. 
  2. How does this right affect selling a home? This means that even though one spouse might be the only person listed on a deed, the other spouse will most likely need to also sign as a grantor before the property can legally be conveyed to a buyer.  In this case, both spouses will need to attend the closing to sign the deed. 

So, if in doubt about whether a spouse needs to attend a closing, do not be like the above husband and make assumptions. Instead, pick up the phone, call the closing attorney and ask whether or not a spouse needs to be present. Otherwise, you may not be able to sell the home in time to purchase that dream home.  Contact us if you need help with your real estate closing needs!