Since 1787, Michigan law has given women "dower" rights. Dower rights gave widows a one-third interest in any real estate owned by her husband during their marriage. This allowed a deceased husband to provide economic support for his surviving wife.
The law was enacted at a time when women were considered legally incompetent and could not own property in their own name. Even after that changed in the mid-1800s, dower rights were retained by the legislature to prevent a husband from disinheriting his wife by deeding away property without her knowledge.
Effective April 6, 2017, Michigan has abolished dower rights. (A surviving widow whose husband died before April 16, 2017 will still have her dower rights). This law also repeals any section of any other law that refers to dower rights, including the previous requirement that a judgment of divorce must include a provision addressing the dower.
Despite this change, the following are still required by law:
- Both spouses must sign the mortgage on their principal residence, regardless of the actual owner.
- Documents that are being recorded must state if a man is single or married.
- Husbands cannot disinherit their wives - Michigan's intestacy laws basically prevent that.