Update on the abolishment of dower in Michigan

Blog Post

In my article, The Ancient Right of Dower Abolished in Michigan, I noted that Michigan had finally abolished all statutory or common law rights of dower in Michigan; that is, a wife’s interest in the real property of her deceased husband. The new law completely eliminated the concept of dower from Michigan law, with an exception made for dower rights elected by a woman whose husband died before the law’s effective date.   

In that article I also noted that the law “did not speak to issues relating to marital status on deeds and recording requirements related to the dower interest, but presumably these matters. . . will be resolved by subsequent legislation and/or practice.” This issue has now been resolved by statute (MCL §565.221(1)). The statute requiring the reference of marital status was amended to state that marital status must only be shown in “written instruments conveying or mortgaging real estate or any interest in real estate executed and offered for record before April 6, 2017;” i.e., the marital status requirement has been eliminated as of April 6, 2017.

Undoubtedly it will take some time to eliminate the long-standing practice of adding marital status to instruments of conveyance. While no longer required, inclusion of marital status in deeds and mortgages (etc.) should not have any impact on the validity of the conveyance. Ultimately, as with the ancient doctrine of dower itself, over time, the reason for inclusion of marital status in deeds and mortgages will likely be of interest only to legal historians and law school professors. 

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