AuthorJeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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The provision that the law makes for a widow out of the lands or tenements of her husband, for her support and the nurture of her children. A species of life estate that a woman is, by law, entitled to

Dower is the provision the law makes for a widow in the distribution of her husband's estate.


claim on the death of her husband, in the lands and tenements of which he was seised in fee during the marriage, and which her issue, if any, might by possibility have inherited. The life estate to which every married woman is entitled on the death of her husband, intestate, or, in case she dissents from his will, one-third in value of all lands of which her husband was beneficially seized in law or in fact, at any time during coverture.

The real property must be inheritable by the wife's offspring in order for her to claim dower. Even if, however, their marriage produces no offspring, the wife is entitled to dower as long as any such progeny of her husband would qualify as his heirs at the time of his death.

Prior to the death of the husband, the interest of the wife is called an inchoate right of dower, in the sense that it is a claim that is not a present interest but one that might ripen into a legally enforceable right if not prohibited or divested. It is frequently stated that an inchoate right of dower is a mere expectancy and not an estate. The law governing dower rights is the law in existence at the time of the husband's death and not the law existing at the time of the marriage.

The courts, however, protect the inchoate right of dower from a fraudulent conveyance?a transfer of property made to defraud, delay, or hinder a creditor, or in this case, the wife, or to place such property beyond the creditor's reach?by the husband in contemplation of, or subsequent to, the marriage. Protection is also available against the claims of creditors if the claims arose after the marriage. The posting of security can be required to protect the interest if

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oil, gas, or other substances are removed from the land, which thereby results in a depreciation?a reduction of worth?with respect to the value of the estate. Decisions supporting a contrary view take the position that a wife cannot interfere with her husband's complete enjoyment of the land during his lifetime.

A wife can relinquish her inchoate right of dower by an antenuptial agreement?which is a...

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