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Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation abolishing widows' dower rights.

While it might sound like the state is taking away widowed women's rights, it is actually bringing some clarity to the process of transferring property to a spouse left behind.

Dower rights allow a women to claim one-third of any property owned by their husband upon their death. Come next month they will be a thing of the past in Michigan.

"Generally speaking, we kept all of our finances together and you know a marriage is a joint thing and that's the way it should be," said Richard Henning, of Saginaw. He lost his wife a year ago.

Dower rights state if a man owns real estate then his wife automatically has partial ownership.

Attorney Carol Thomas has recently dealt with the issue.

"Well, I think at first people might think it's a bad thing, but it's actually a very good thing," Thomas said. "When someone is married they have an elective share. So a spouse still does have a right to what a spouse owns. But before it was automatic, a married man and maybe he inherited something and he didn't want his wife to have something. He wanted it to go to his children. And this way it's fair to both males and females."

Dower rights were particularly confusing for same-sex couples considering the property rights only applied to women after their husband's death.

Henning said he believe strongly in equal joint ownership and he understands sometimes laws like this need to be updated.

"There are instances when it would be a good idea to have your children on that in case you know, something happen in the family," Henning said.

Copyright 2017 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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