What are Dower Rights?

December 17, 2020

Dower rights are a long-existing set of rules designed to protect spouses from their spouse selling their home without their consent or knowledge.  They arose from a time when land was often held only in one spouses name, typically the husband’s. Dower rights prevent the owner spouse from selling, giving away, or putting a mortgage on the home without his or her partner’s consent. These rights also offer protection when the spouse dies. Dower rights exist if there is only one name on title.

Dower rights do not just apply to your primary residence.  Any piece of property that either spouse has spent as little as one night at during their marriage gets caught in these rules.  As such, when you are selling or refinancing a cottage or piece of land that is used for camping, a second home, apparent or condo, you may need to address dower rights.

The specific details for homesteads and dower rights are outlined in the Dower Act. When you and your spouse are in agreement, dower rights are not an issue. Your spouse just has to go with you to the lawyer and sign a couple of forms. These forms say that they are aware they can stop the sale, but do not want to.

However, if you are separated but not divorced from your spouse these rules can be a problem.  If you cannot obtain your spouse’s consent, you will require a court order to procced with the sale.

If you have further questions about dower rights, please make a consultation appointment with one of our lawyers.