Dower (Dower and curtesy)
Dower is the legal right or interest (estate) a wife acquires in property owned by her husband at any time during the marriage.
Dower and curtesy are legal life estates that are created upon the death of a spouse who owned real estate. Dower is the life estate that a wife acquires in the real property of her deceased husband, while curtesy is the estate a husband holds in real property owned by his wife following her death. Dower and curtesy entitle the surviving spouse to a portion (usually one-third to one-half) of the interest in the real property owned by the deceased spouse, even if that property was willed to someone else. Dower and curtesy are forms of tenancy by the entirety, and are only used in states that practice that system of common law. Tenancy by the entirety is contrasted with another common law system used by other states, known as community property.
Note that in some states, dower refers to either a husband's or wife's interest in the property of the other.
Added: Fri Jan 06 2006
Last Modified: Wed Jun 25 2008