What are dower and curtesy, and why are they important in regards to real estate transactions?
Dower refers to the rights of a non owner spouse. In the case of a household where only one spouse has title to the house, while the other does not have title, this could cause a problem upon selling the house, because the spouse without title still has rights to the house. These rights are called dower rights. While the spouse with title to the house may be able to enter into a listing agreement, the spouse with dower rights has the power to veto the sale. Dower rights particularly come into play when a mortgage is involved with the transaction. Lenders will not allow the transfer of title to buyers when a transaction involves a house with a spouse who has dower rights. The rights would have to be legally released. Only then will the lender fund on the loan to close the transaction.
Curtesy refers to signing documents in escrow. When parties in a transaction are not local to the escrow company that is closing a transaction, they can request that a local signing agent helps them sign and notarize the closing documents. This is what is called a curtesy signing. For example, the escrow company is located in northern California. The seller is located in northern California. However, the buyer lives in southern California and it would be inconvenient for the buyer to travel all the way to northern California to sign the closing documents. In this case, the buyer would request a curtesy signing and once completed, the local signing agent sends the documents to the northern California office.
Dower rights are the same as curtesy rights, only the terms are gender based. Dower rights are the presumed interest (inheritance rights) that a spouse has in real property that is otherwise is wholly owned by the other partner of the marriage.
In all matters that pertain to real estate in the United States, it is best to choose an expert in your own local area to explain any questions you might have. Also remember that real estate agents are not attorneys and can only give general information about real estate.
For instance, if you wanted to know if the state of Florida recognizes dower rights, you could ask an agent. Since I am a Florida agent, I will answer that. Yes, Florida does recognize dower interests in real property. In order to transfer property in Florida, the spouse must sign a release of dower rights in the property by or at the close of sale. However, If you have specific questions about your own or your spouse's dower interest in a real property, then you need to consult a real estate attorney..
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