On Tuesday we discussed several clauses of the Magna Carta that involve women’s rights. Today we will pick up where we left off, with a focus on Clause 7 and the comparable legislation which exists in Alberta today. Clause 7 states that “[a] widow, after the death of her husband, shall immediately and without difficulty have her marriage portion and inheritance. She shall not give anything for her marriage portion, dower, or inheritance which she and her husband held on the day of his death, and she may remain in her husband’s house for forty days after his death, within which time her dower shall be assigned to her.”
The spirit of protecting a spouse from falling into an adverse housing situation upon the partner’s death lives on today in Alberta in the form of the Dower Act. The Dower Act differs from the Magna Carta in that it applies to both spouses. This two-way protection would not have been necessary in the times of the Magna Carta because men were the primary property owners, with the exclusion of dower and inheritances.
However, the Dower Act is very similar to Clause 7 in it’s protection of a widow or widower. The Act ensures that the surviving spouse will have a roof over his or her head. For example, consider the hypothetical family of John, Joan, and Bobby Smith. If John Smith dies and leaves his (only) home to his son Bobby in the will, the Dower Act dictates that Bobby’s right to possession of the home is postponed, and Joan Smith may live in the home for the duration of her life. If John owned 3 homes at the time of his death, Joan gets to choose which house she will claim this “life estate” on, so long as it is a house that the couple dwells in.
The Dower Act also sets out requirements for married persons involved in home sales. Check out the interview with Remax realtor Luciano Anselmo to find out more!