Dower Rights: There's an Elephant in the Room
Let's get the big elephant of this conversation out of the way because we all know, this conversation is awkward. The conversation about Dower Rights is avoided many times because to even bring up the conversation suggests a subliminal message: "Spouse/ Partner, this thing may not last forever. And, I'm preparing for that possibility now."
Here's the truth though; it's the people who are uneducated and unprepared who suffer the most, regardless your relationship status. While the conversation has garnered negative vibes, this is one part of your financial plan that helps in protecting you both. Did you hear that? The Dower Rights conversation will serve to protect you both.
I've walked through many versions of this conversation from both sides of the coin. The biggest concern comes when I hear, "I just didn't know". This won't be able to protect you. Here's something else I hear:
I live in my house by myself and my husband/wife (typically common-law) hasn't been to my house much, never mind lived in it. What makes you believe that he/she has rights to my house? What do you mean, Dower Rights!?
These rights were originally set up years ago to protect individuals in a relationship, in the event of a separation or a divorce. We all know that times have changed significantly since, but please know that Dower Rights still apply today. It has become even more challenging due to some of the changes in family law. Check out what Statistics Canada reports on the dramatic changes in legally married versus common-law relationships in Canada.
While the number of married couples rose 19.7% over the 30-year period between 1981 and 2011, the number of common-law couples more than quadrupled (+345.2%). - Statistics Canada
That's a lot of common-law relationships which may be in danger without understanding Dower Rights and planning accordingly. Obviously, it would be good for both people to be protected, however you both decide is right. Let me give you a couple hints here.
How to deal with Dower Rights:
Know Your Rights | Like anything, you need to know your rights. So go ahead and read the link provided above for Dower Rights, or, give me a call to talk about it. Keep in mind you are not just thinking about yourself. This is an opportunity for both parties to decide what will work for your relationship, through what will work for you individually.
Create a Plan | Once you know what your rights are, work through a plan. If you need help discussing your goals, or what might make sense for you, give me a call.
Going into a relationship does not mean that everything is going to be perfect, but it also doesn't mean everything turns out badly. Part of healthy relationships requires good communication from everything related to cleaning, to finances. Do yourselves a favour and become the experts of your financial plans.
There are lawyers and other companies that can draw up proper documentation such as a cohabitation agreement or a prenuptial agreement that will allow you and your partner to go into your relationship/marriage not with plans that it won't work but with plans that if it doesn't work that you know where each other are at.
Alternatively, you can talk with your lawyer or even your mortgage broker prior to purchasing real estate to see what the details around Dower Rights are and how they could affect you.
Alright, elephant's out of the room. That was a lot of work so, grab your partner and take a nice break. Enjoy some ice cream and a nice walk or go dancing together at the Salsa club. Because not everything is perfect but, not everything ends poorly either.