No More Dower Rights in Michigan

It's hard to believe that after centuries Michigan has decided to abolish dower rights once and for all!

One of the many consequences of the dower interest in Michigan has been the requirement that deeds of conveyance reflect a husband’s marital status. The existence of dower also made it prudent to have express language in the conveying instrument barring a wife’s dower interest in real property, to ensure that this inchoate or “springing” interest would not create a cloud upon the grantee’s title (although the wife’s signature on the instrument was typically sufficient). The Legislative Analysis did not speak to issues relating to marital status on deeds and recording requirements related to the dower interest, but presumably these matters, if not expressly resolved by the Act (and apparently they were not), will be resolved by subsequent legislation and/or practice.

Bills to abolish dower had been presented to the Michigan Legislature almost routinely for many years. Prior to the Act, Michigan was one of the few (and perhaps the last hold-out) states to continue to recognize dower. The concept of dower had been supported by the Michigan Supreme Court as recently as 2008 in the case In re: In the Case of Miltenberger. Some have suggested that the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision in Obergefell v Hodges, and the complications of applying the doctrine of dower in the context of same-sex marriage, was the impetus needed to eliminate this ancient doctrine from Michigan law. Regardless, this ancient doctrine has finally gone the way of the Rule in Shelley’s Case, and will soon be of interest only to legal historians and law school professors.

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