Dower Law & Legal Definition


Dower is the right of a woman at common law to inherit from her husband. It was a provision accorded by law to a wife for her support in the event that she should survive her husband.

In U.S, a federal law abolished dower, though in most states, one-third of a husband's estate is awarded to a widow automatically if he dies without a will (intestate). In many jurisdictions, dower has been replaced by the elective share. In others, statutes expressly provide that a spouse choose among the elective share, the dower, or the provisions of the will. Prior to the death of the husband, the interest of the wife is called an inchoate right of dower.

Ohio is one of the few states that still have dower rights. In Ohio a spouse is given rights in a purchased property even if they had nothing to do with the purchase. Whenever a married person buys real estate in Ohio, the married person's spouse is automatically the recipient of this "dower" interest. Therefore any document that intends to convey or mortgage an interest in the property is not effective as to the dower interest of the spouse unless that spouse has also signed the document. Usually dower can be terminated by :

1. Signing of the document by the spouse-releasing dower.

2. Divorce of dissolution of marriage.

3. Death of a spouse.

The common law right of a husband to inherit from a wife is called curtesy.