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Marital Interests

How are a man and woman’s property interests affected after they enter into a marriage? At common law, a married woman occupied a lowly legal position. This was reflected in the treatment of marital estates. Significant changes in a married woman’s status did not take place until the nineteenth century.

A. Husband’s Interest in Wife’s Property

Jure Uxoris (i.e., estate by marital right) was a legal life estate whereby the husband was entitled to the use of all the lands his wife possessed before, or acquired during, the marriage.

a. The husband had a right to occupy and alienate his wife’s land and to collect all its rents and profits.

b. Termination of jure uxoris occurred upon the death of the husband or wife or upon divorce.

2. Curtesy Initiate
Upon the birth of a live child (survival of the child was not necessary), jure uxoris was transformed into curtesy initiate. The effect of this was that the husband no longer lost his rights to his wife’s property if she predeceased him (as he did in jure uxoris).

3. Curtesy Consummate
Upon his wife’s death, the husband’s curtesy was transformed into a curtesy consummate. There is little practical difference between the two types of curtesy.

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