Kiritsis & Associates


What is dower? Kiritsis Law Group 212 922 0005

May 13, 2021

By: John Kiritsis, Esq., CPA, MBA, MS, JD, LL.M

An old legal notion referencing to a spouse’s interest in a deceased spouse’s property. In modern times, many jurisdictions have replaced dower with the legal notion of augmented state. The dower has been either abolished or severely modified/limited in virtually every jurisdiction. Modern courts have disfavored dowers, in support of alternative marital property arrangements, such as elective share and/or community property. Some have suggested that the demise of dowery is a consequence of a shift in social values. This theory is often based on the presupposition that in the old times people mostly got married to preserve wealth; whereas nowadays people mostly get married out of love. Regardless of where a jurisdiction stands on dowery, it may be a good idea for couples to enter into prenuptial agreement before the wedding. Also, in certain immigrant and ethnic communities, where dowery is the norm, it is important to have a strong education outreach so that parties are better informed about the legal status of their dowery contracts. Also, it may be helpful to keep in mind, that just because a certain state may permit dowery on its books, may not necessary mean that a judge won’t decide to set it aside, due to public policy concerns.


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