Capitol Heights, MD asked in Estate Planning and Real Estate Law for Virginia

Q: What is allotment of dower mean?

There's 233,000 Acrea of land owned by family name.The farm has been owned and manned by my family for over 100 years .(with whom I've never met and by blood I am related)Is there any rights I have to this farm?

2 Lawyer Answers
Ross Cameron Hart
Ross Cameron Hart
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Salem, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: There is no way to tell from your question. You don't specify whether the land is located in Virginia or some other state - 233,000 acres is huge for Virginia; more likely in a western state. The laws of each state are different.

That said, you would need a title search to determine if you have an ownership interest - an ancestor of yours could have deeded their interest away, or willed the property to someone other than who is in you line of succession.

James H. Wilson Jr. agrees with this answer

James H. Wilson Jr.
James H. Wilson Jr.
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Glen Allen, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: Dower and curtesy were abolished in Virginia by statute effective January 1, 1991. Rights vested before that date may still be enforceable. Dower was the right of a widow to an interest in her deceased husband's land, usually a life estate or a third of the value of the property if she renounced the will. There are now various statutory rights available to a surviving spouse that have replaced dower and curtesy.

The property you may be describing is what is sometimes called "heirs property" in some Southern states. That occurs when members of a family occupy the same land in multiple dwellings for generations tracing to a common ancestor, and no one has ever filed a will, probated an estate, subdivided the property, or recorded a real estate affidavit giving public notice of the current owners. In some instances, an heir or an assignee of an heir will file a partition suit, naming all known heirs and giving notice by publication to anyone else who may have an interest. The purpose of the partition suit is to divide up, if that is feasible, or to force a sale of the property and a distribution of the proceeds. As my esteemed colleague noted, the first step would most likely involve a title search in land records to determine who owns the property according to the records.

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