Since 1846, Michigan has recognized a statutory right of dower in favor or women. Dower rights allowed for a widow of a deceased man to use 1/3 of the lands of her husband that were acquired during the marriage for the remainder of her life. The concept of dower is dated and has been eliminated in many states. At the end of 2015, the Michigan legislature passed a serious of bills that abolished dower in Michigan. Specifically, Senate Bill 558 provides as follows:
Sec. 30. (1) Notwithstanding sections 1 to 29, and except as otherwise provided in subsection (2), a wife’s dower right is abolished and unenforceable either through statute or at common law.
(2) This section does not apply to either of the following:
(a) A widow’s dower elected by a woman whose husband died before the effective date of the amendatory act that added this section.
(b) If a widow’s husband died before the effective date of the amendatory act that added this section, the widow’s right to elect dower under section 2202 of the estates and protected individuals code, 1998 PA 386, MCL 700.2202.
Senate Bill 560 was also passed to deal with the elimination of dower in the context of probate and House Bill 5520 was passed to deal with the elimination of dower in the context of divorce proceedings. The amendments allow for a widow to preserve dower rights already elected before the effective dates of the statutes if their husband had already died.
The legislation was intended to eliminate uncertainty that arose from the United States Supreme Court decisions in Obergefell v. Hodges and DeBoer v. Snyder,which held that states much issues marriage licenses to same sex couples and recognize the marriage of a same sex couple married in other state.
Kevin Hirzel is the Managing Member of Hirzel Law, PLC and concentrates his practice on commercial litigation, community association law, condominium law, Fair Housing Act compliance, homeowners association and real estate law. Mr. Hirzel is a fellow in the College of Community Association Lawyers, a prestigious designation given to less than 175 attorneys in the country. He has been a Michigan Super Lawyer’s Rising Star in Real Estate Law from 2013-2018, an award given to only 2.5% of the attorneys in Michigan each year. Mr. Hirzel was named an Up & Coming Lawyer by Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly in 2015, an award given to only 30 attorneys in Michigan each year. He represents community associations, condominium associations, cooperatives, homeowners associations, property owners and property managers throughout Michigan. He may be reached at (248) 720-5762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.