1. What is the Dower Act?
The Dower Act is provincial legislation that prevents a married person from disposing of the homestead without the consent of the other spouse. This includes the right of the surviving spouse to a life estate in the homestead as well as the personal property of the deceased married person.
2. Purpose of the Dower Act
Today the Dower Act grants the lawful spouse of the registered owner two key entitlements:
(i) A life estate (the right to live on the property for the remainder of the spouse’s life)
(ii) Veto rights to prevent the sale or any other disposition of the property
The are three conditions that trigger the need for Dower Consent & Acknowledgment (DCA). The three conditions are:
• The seller is legally married; AND
• Only one name is registered on title; AND
• Either the seller or his/her spouse has resided on the property at any time since the marriage.
Dower Rules at a Glance
• If couples are separated but still “legally married”, dower rights could still apply.
• If same-sex couples are legally married, dower rights could still apply.
• Dower Act does not apply to cohabitating or common-law couples.
• Dower Act does not apply if there are any two names on title.
• Even if only one spouse (either owner or non-owner) has resided on the property, dower rights could apply.
• Spending only one night on the property since the marriage could trigger dower rights.(To clarify, this means during the length of the marriage, not since the marriage ended.)
Using a Commissioner for Oaths
In order for the registered owner to sell the property, the non-owner spouse must have a Dower Consent & Acknowledgment form be taken to a Commissioner for Oaths.
This process ensures that the non-owner spouse understands the rights he or she is giving up and prevents the registered owner from exerting pressure on the non-owner spouse to sign. It should be made clear to the non-owner spouse that they are giving up rights only to this particular property and that the consent is not a general release.
If the non-owner spouse wishes to waive dower rights completely, a Release of Dower Rights form must be signed.