Dower rights were the traditional rights a wife had to elect on her husband's death, to claim for her life possession and use, a one-third interest in any real estate titled in her late husband's name. As a result of such dower rights, a wife has been required to sign any deed, mortgage or other document to transfer an interest in her husband's property to another, which would release her dower rights and give the transferee good title to the property.
The Michigan legislature recently voted to abolish dower rights in Public Act 489 of 2016. The Governor signed the new law on January 5, 2017, and this new law will take effect on April 6, 2017.
Beginning on April 6, 2017, a wife will no longer be required to sign any deed, mortgage, grant of easement or other documentation (in which her husband transfers or encumbers an interest in his real estate) to satisfy the release of her dower rights. There is one exception to this rule, however. Michigan law will still require both a wife's and a husband's signature on any mortgage of residential property that both occupy as their homestead, if the mortgage is granted to secure debt which was not incurred to purchase the homestead, even though the homestead is titled solely in the name of the husband or wife.
Please contact any of the Real Estate Practice Group members at Warner Norcross + Judd LLP if you would like to discuss these matters further or have any questions regarding the repeal of dower rights.