Definition - What does Dower mean?

Dower is a common law right assigned to women that permits them to receive inheritance from their husbands. Long since eliminated by U.S. federal law and no longer applicable in most states, its original intent was to ensure that widows were not left destitute.

Modern alternatives to dower include the elective share and other legal provisions.

Justipedia explains Dower

Traditionally, dower allowed a wife to receive a specified allotment of her deceased husband's estate – generally one-half to one-third. However, prior to the elimination of dower in most U.S. states, the allocations awarded to surviving wives (and husbands, through curtesy) varied, and were often based on the survivor's gender.

Today, a legal provision commonly called the statutory share ensures that widows and widowers are entitled to similar allotments. Some state laws allow the surviving spouse (widow) to decide whether she wants to accept the elective share, dower (if applicable) or allotment of the estate stipulated in a will (if applicable).

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