Dower Rights have significantly influenced Alberta’s provincial real estate law. First introduced back in 1917, The Dower Act (Alberta) was originally intended to protect a woman’s right to live in the marital home during her lifetime but now serves as a form of protection for all spouses who are not registered on title to marital property, regardless of gender.
Keep reading to learn more.
What Are Dower Rights?
Dower rights refer to the right of a spouse not registered on title to a marital property to live on that property for their lifetime if they choose. In other words, the spouse not registered on the title must either consent to the disposition of that property or release their Dower rights in that property before it can be listed for sale, mortgaged, or sold.
Who has Dower Rights?
Any person legally married and not registered on the title to a property that their spouse owns and that they or their spouse have spent any time living in (even if for one night) has dower rights. Even if a married couple is separated but not divorced, dower rights still apply. Gender does not matter in the definition of “spouse.” Dower rights do not apply to spouses living common law (interdependent adult partners).
What is a Disposition of Property?
A disposition of property under the Dower Act is defined as the listing of a property for sale, the mortgaging of that property or the sale of that property. If a property is owned by one spouse only and is a property that one or the other spouse spent time living in (even if for one night), then the spouse who owns the property cannot dispose of it without obtaining consent in writing of the marital partner who is not on title –or their written release of Dower rights.
The Alberta Land Titles office will not register a transfer of land or mortgage if dower rights are not adequately dealt with. In addition, if a singular person is listed on the title, the transfer or mortgage must be accompanied by an affidavit of that person stating that they are either not legally married or that they are married but that neither they nor their spouse has spent any time living on the property.
Although the Dower Act was enforced initially to protect women, it has expanded to cover all spouses from the undesired disposition of property that they live or have lived on.
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