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dower

n. an old English common law right of a widow to one-third of her late husband's estate, which is still the law in a few states. In those states the surviving wife can choose either the dower rights or, if more generous, accept the terms of her husband's will in what is called a widow's election. In an obvious sexist imbalance, a surviving husband's equivalent right (called curtesy) is to the wife's entire estate, or if there are living children, to a life estate in everything.

See also: curtesy  descent and distribution  widow's election 

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