Massachusetts Agencies

Dower Release

Deeds and Conveyances

The release of "all other interests therein," as appearing in the clause relating to dower and homestead is to be read within the context in which it appears, and it has been held that the language refers only to marital rights and does not extend to convey any other interests in the land, including the fee title. Anttila v. A. E. Lyon Co., 222 Mass. 126, 109 N.E. 950 (1915).

Although such a deed will not pass the title of the spouse who joins in the conveyance for such a limited purpose, if the parties held title as tenants by the entirety, and the spouse who so joins diesbefore the granting spouse, the title under the deed will be good, inasmuch as the conveyance by the grantor would not have severed the tenancy by the entirety and the death of the other spouse will allow title to flow through that grantor. It is important to remember, however, that in order for this "cure" to work, it must be established that the spouse who joined and the granting spouse were still married to each other when the spouse who had joined in the conveyance died. If the parties had been divorced, the title (or at least a half interest therein) would remain defective, because the divorce would have "severed" the tenancy, transforming it into a tenancy in common, and thereby destroying the survivorship feature. And, the order of death is crucial, because even if the parties remained married, the death by the granting spouse before the death of the joining spouse would, where the parties had held title as tenants by the entirety, cause the entire title to find its way into the hands of the joining spouse, thereby totally destroying the chain of title of the grantee claiming under the granting spouse.

Incidentally, with respect to the dower interest itself, Park, Massachusetts Practice states:

It is no longer necessary, in the execution of conveyance (sic), to obtain a release of dower or curtesy[1] rights, for, after several unsuccessful attempts, the legislature was finally prevailed upon to limit dower and curtesy to only those lands owned by the decedent at the time of his or her death.

Moreover, G.L.c. 189, §1 provides, among other things, as follows:

A surviving spouse shall hold for life one third of all land owned by a deceased spouse at the time of death. Such estate shall be known as tenancy by dower. Any encumbrances on land at the time of the owner's death shall have precedence over dower. (Emphasis added).

So, not only is it unnecessary for the wife to sign anything, but it is also true that when her right to dower arises it will be subject to the lender's mortgage.

The above rule also applies to husbands and their dower (formerly called curtesy) rights.

1 This term is no longer applicable as the estate is now known as tenancy by dower as to both spouses.