Who has to attend closing? Dower and Courtesy – Spousal Rights to Real Estate in Kentucky

What are marital rights to real estate (Dower and Curtesy)? 
By state law in Kentucky, if you buy a property in your sole name, your spouse will instantly have an ownership interest in that property – just by the fact that you are legally married.  Names on deeds do not solely determine ownership; Names PLUS marital status does.  The same is true if you bought the property before you got married – once you marry, the new spouse gains an ownership interest.  How much of an ownership interest is dependent upon a variety or factors which we won’t get into here, but it can be 0% and up.  This ownership interest that your spouse has is called a “marital interest”, or “spousal interest”.  Marital rights exist in KY and in 23 other states. Dower rights refer to the wife’s rights and Curtesy rights refer to the husband’s rights.  Kentucky Revised Statutes are below.

Who has to attend closing? 
1. All title-holding spouses must attend all closings
. “Title holding” means their names are on the deed.
2. All NON-title-holding spouses must attend all closings as well, only to sign marital-rights documents – see list below. 
3. *Cash purchases are NOT affected by marital rights.
In these cases, it is only one-to-buy.
4. All sales are affected by these rights.  
Therefore all title holders and their spouses, even if their spouses’ names are not on the deed, they must attend closing to sign all sales documents.

There are 2 ways for NON-title-holding spouses to sign:
1. Most commonly, the non-title-holding spouse simply attends the closing and signs the few marital-rights documents. 
These include:
a) Mortgage – Sign this to say its OK for your spouse to use your house as collateral on the loan…and to acknowledge that the home could be foreclosed upon if the title-holding spouse does not pay the loan back.  This required signature is designed to prevent title-holding spouses form mortgaging up the home without the knowledge of the non-title-holding spouse.
b) Closing Disclosure – Discloses the costs of the loan.
c) A few standard disclosures that lenders and title companies are required to have you sign.
d) Non-title-holding spouses do NOT sign the promissory note; therefore, he/she is NOT responsible for repayment of the debt.
2. The 2nd way for non-title-holding spouses to sign is used only in rare situations where the non-title-holding spouse will be out of town, or is planning to be in the hospital or if he/she is in the midst of a nasty divorce with the title-holding spouse.  In these cases, we can have the non-title-holding spouse sign a “release of marital rights” document to avoid attending the closing to sign the marital-rights documents.

Yes, a title holding spouse must gain the consent of the non-title-holding spouse to get a mortgage or to sell.


2006 Kentucky Revised Statutes
Post 2017 legislative session*
Marital Rights – Dower and Curtesy
392.020 Surviving spouse’s interest in property of deceased spouse — “Dower” and “curtesy” defined.* After the death of the husband or wife intestate, the survivor shall have an estate in fee of one-half (1/2) of the surplus real estate of which the other spouse or anyone for the use of the other spouse, was seized of an estate in fee simple at the time of death, and shall have an estate for his or her life in one-third (1/3) of any real estate of which the other spouse or anyone for the use of the other spouse, was seized of an estate in fee simple during the coverture but not at the time of death, unless the survivor’s right to such interest has been barred, forfeited or relinquished. The survivor shall also have an absolute estate in one- half (1/2) of the surplus personalty left by the decedent. Unless the context otherwise requires, any reference in the statutes of this state to “dower” or “curtesy” shall be deemed to refer to the surviving spouse’s interest created by this section. Effective: July 1, 1956 History: Amended 1956 Ky. Acts ch. 117, sec. 2, effective July 1, 1956. — Recodified 1942 Ky. Acts ch. 208, sec. 1, effective October 1, 1942, from Ky. Stat. sec. 2132.

386.095 Execution and delivery of releases of powers exercisable by deed, will or otherwise.*
(1) Any power which is exercisable by deed, by will, by deed or will, or otherwise, whether general or special, other than a power in trust which is imperative, is releasable by written instrument signed by the donee of the power and delivered as hereinafter provided. A power which is releasable may be released with respect to the whole or any part of the property subject to suchpower and may also be released in such manner as to reduce or limit the persons or objects, or classes of persons or objects, in whose favor such power would otherwise be exercisable. No release of a power shall be deemed to make imperative a power which was not imperative prior to such release, unless the instrument of release expressly so provides.
(2) Such release may be delivered to any of the following:
(a) Any person specified for such purpose in the instrument creating the power;
(b) Any trustee of the property to which the power relates;
(c) Any person, other than the donee of the power, who could be adversely affected by an exercise of the power; or
(d) The recorder of deeds of the county in which the donee of the power resides or has a place of business, or in which the deed, will or other instrument creating the power is recorded.  Effective:July 13, 1984  History: Amended 1984 Ky. Acts ch.111, sec.196, effective July 13, 1984. — Created 1944 Ky. Acts ch.14, sec.1.

*Disclaimer: These codes may not be the most recent version. Kentucky may have more current or accurate information. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this document or the information linked to on the state site. Please check official sources.