Recently, the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee voted 9 to 6 in favor of House Bill 209, which would abolish dower in Ohio. As a result, the bill will be assigned for a full vote by the House of Representatives.
Ohio is one of only three states that still provides dower rights. In Ohio, a spouse who does not join in executing the documents transferring or encumbering real property could be entitled to a one-third life estate in that property when the owner spouse dies. The right is conditioned on several factors, but is also only a contingent right until the owner predeceases the spouse. At that point, the right becomes vested.
Abolishing dower is significant because when a surviving spouse claims dower rights later, it creates a title problem. This situation is often caused by failing to properly record grantor spouse names on a deed.