Originally a protection created for widows who survive their husbands, a dower right is an interest in real estate intended to protect a spouse who does not hold title. Dower has fallen by the wayside in most states as an antiquated concept, but in Ohio dower rights are alive and well. Not only has dower not been abolished, it has even been broadened to include husbands (previously protected under curtesy).
This article briefly reviews the concept of dower rights in Ohio and their practical applications.
Duration of Dower Rights
Ohio upholds dower rights to give spouses real property protections. These rights are difficult to terminate, continuing unless the spouse:
- dissolves the marriage; or
- signs a release of their dower rights.
As such, any attempt to convey property will not terminate the dower interest unless the spouse with the interest signs a document relinquishing their interest in the property.
Dower Rights and Property
Ohio's dower rights provisions affect property encumbrances and transfers, and other parties must take steps to protect their interests in the property. Spouses who do not sign a mortgage deed retain a superior interest to the bank issuing the real property mortgage and may receive funds before the bank in a foreclosure sale. Additionally, a spouse who does not sign the deed during a sale of their spouse's property does not grant the purchaser complete ownership. Without signing, that spouse keeps their dower interest and the property's title is no longer clear.
Ohio Dower Rights at a Glance
Though it can be beneficial to see the original form of a law, it is often easier to grasp the meaning when it's presented in plain English. This chart provides a brief overview of the law of Ohio's dower rights.
Ohio Revised Code Title XXI, Section 2103.02 (Dower)
A spouse will be endowed with a life estate in 1/3 of any real property their spouse acquired during the marriage. This interest will terminate on the surviving spouse's death.
|Exceptions to the Termination of a Dower Right Upon Death
A spouse's dower rights to a life estate exists unless:
- The spouse dies;
- The marriage ends in divorce or dissolution; or
- The spouse signs a deed releasing their dower rights.
Dower rights may also be barred in cases of adultery.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Ohio Dower Rights: Related Resources
Get Legal Help with Ohio's Dower Rights
Because dower rights are rare in modern times, an Ohio spouse may not be aware that they are entitled to certain interests in real estate they did not purchase themselves. However, without this knowledge no safeguards can be made to protect these potentially valuable interests going forward. If you think you may have dower rights or want to learn more about your situation, contact a seasoned Ohio family law attorney today to get your questions answered.