The Home Library of Useful Knowledge
A Complete Cyclopedia of Reference

Compiled and Edited by R. S. Peale
The Home Library Association, Chicago 1889

Special Laws of the States and Territories
| CT | ME | MA | NH | NJ | NY | RI |


Deeds must be in writing and under seal, a scroll being sufficient. Two witnesses are required. Acknowledgment in the State is make before a judge or a court of record, justice of the peace, notary public, town clerk, commissioner of the Superior Court or commissioner of the school fund. The wife need not be privately examined apart from her husband. She must join with her husband in conveyance of her separate real estate, but the husband conveys his property without her signature. Dower attaches only to the separate real estate of the husband at his death.

Divorce. Absolute divorce may be granted by the Superior Court for adultery, fraud, duress or force in obtaining the marriage, willful desertion for three years, seven years’ absence without being heard of, habitual intemperance, intolerable cruelty, sentence to imprisonment for life, the commission of any crime punishable by imprisonment in the State penitentiary and any such misconduct as permanently destroys the happiness of the petitioner and defeats the purposes of the marriage relation. Three years’ residence in the State is necessary before filing a petition. Either party may marry again after divorce, and the court may change the wife’s name and make order for alimony and custody of children.

Married Women. Previous to the year 1877, the husband acquired a right to the use of all the real estate of the wife during her life, and if he had a child by her and survived her, then during his own life as tenant by courtesy. By the act of May 20th, 1877, the rights of married women are materially enlarged. Any woman married after that date retains her real estate as if unmarried. She may make contracts, convey real estate and sue or be sued in regard to any property owned by her at the time of marriage, or afterwards acquired. The estate is liable for her debts, and, jointly with her husband, for debts contracted for joint benefit of both or household expenses. The separate earnings of a wife are her sole property. Dower exists only in real estate of which the husband is possessed at the time of his decease.

Wills must be in writing, signed by the testator and attested by three witnesses in his presence and in presence of each other. All persons over eighteen years of age can bequeath both real and personal property. Wills are recorded in the Probate Court, and ten years are allowed to probate a will after the death of the testator.


Deeds. All deeds must be under seal. Within the State acknowledgments are made before a justice of the peace or a notary public; in other States, before a magistrate, justice of the peace, notary public or commissioner of deeds for this State; in foreign countries, before a notary public or United States minister or consul. One grantor may make the acknowledgment. The wife joins to relinquish dower.

Married Women. a married woman holds real and personal property, acquired in any way except from the husband, the same as if single. She may make contracts, sue and be sued and do business in her own name; and her property is liable only for her won debts. She joins husband in a deed selling his property to relinquish dower. He joins with her in selling hers only when such property comes from him. A wife, being abandoned by her husband, may be allowed to take and use his personal property. Dower, life estate I one-third of all husband’s real property owned during covertures; one-half if no children. He has same interest in deceased wife’s estate.

Wills. Three disinterested witnesses. Testator must be twenty-one years of age and of sound mind. Nuncupative wills must be reduced to writing within six days. Wills devising real estate must be recorded the same as deeds.


Deeds require to be under seal. No witness is needed. Acknowledgment of one grantor is sufficient. Wife joins to bar dower. No separate examination. Acknowledgments are taken by justices of the peace or notaries public. In other States, by justices of the peace, =======

New Hampshire

Deeds. Every conveyance of real estate requires a seal, and must have two witnesses. Acknowledgments may be taken by notaries public, justices of the peace or commissioner of deeds. Wife joins to release dower. No separate examination.

Divorces are granted by the Supreme Court for physical incompetency, adultery, drunkenness, cruelty, three years’ desertion, on year’s sentence in prison or adherence to a religious sect that condemns marriage.

Married Women. A married woman holds property owned before marriage or acquired afterwards, except what may come from the husband, for her own use. She may sell, convey and encumber, devise and bequeath, do business, give notes, sue and be sued. Her contracts are binding, excepting that there can be no contracts or conveyances between husband and wife, nor can the wife become security for her husband. Wife is entitled to dower.

Wills. Testator’s age, twenty-one. Three witnesses. Nuncupative wills must be reduced to writing within sex days. Probate within six months.

New Jersey

Deeds must be under seal, and have one witness. The word "heirs" must appear in an instrument to convey in fee simple. Acknowledgments are taken by the chancellor or justice of the Superior Court, master in chancery, judge of the Court of Common Pleas, or commissioner of deeds. In other States, by commissioners of deeds for this State or by legally authorized local officers. Husband and wife join in a deed conveying the estate of either, he to give his consent, she to release dower.

Divorce. Absolute for adultery, bigamy or three years’ abandonment. Partial for cruelty. Applicant must reside in the State, unless the marriage or the alleged misconduct occurred here.

Married Women. The property owned before marriage, and such as she may acquire afterwards by gift, descent or bequest, is the sole property of a married woman and is not liable for the husband’s debts. She may make contracts, but cannot sell or encumber her real estate without consent of husband. She cannot endorse notes or become security. She joins her husband in his conveyances and mortgages. Dower and courtesy.

Wills. Testator’s age, twenty-one years. Two witnesses. Witness cannot be a beneficiary. A married woman making a will cannot impair her husband’s right by courtesy.

New York

Deeds must be under seal. Within the State, acknowledgments are made before notary public, justice of the peace, surrogate, judge of court of record, recorder or commissioner of deeds. In any other State, before commissioner for this State, judge of United States Court, judge of Supreme, Circuit or Superior Court, or the mayor of a city, or before any legally authorized officer.

Divorce. Only for adultery will an absolute divorce be granted. Partial divorce is ordered for cruelty, desertion and neglect. Marriages are annulled for fraud or force, idiocy, lunacy or impotency at the time of marriage, or for bigamy.

Married Women may have real and personal property, buy and sell and do business in their own names. A married woman is liable for debts contracted in her own trade or business, or when an agreement or contract has been made for the benefit of her separate property, when, by the terms of such instrument, her separate property is to be charged with the liability. Dower.

Wills. Testator’s age to dispose of real estate, twenty-one years; of personal property, eighteen for males, sixteen for females. Two witnesses. The address of a witness accompanies his signature.

Rhode Island

Deeds require a seal. Acknowledgments may be taken by a senator, judge, justice of th peace, notary public or town clerk. In other States, by the authorized officers in such States, or by commissioner of deeds for Rhode Island. The wife joins in deed to release dower; only the husband need make the acknowledgment.

Divorce is granted for impotency, adultery, cruelty, drunkenness, neglect to support, five years’ abandonment, conviction of murder or arson, presumption of death from long absence, or for defect in marriage rendering it void. Divorces may only be decreed by Supreme Court. Alimony may be ordered, and restoration of wife’s separate property.

Married Women. A married woman’s property is held by trustees for her separate use free from her husband’s debts. She cannot make contracts or do business. She may make a will subject to her husband’s right by courtesy.

Wills. Testator’s age, twenty-one years for disposal of real estate; eighteen for personal property. Two witnesses.

Rights of Married Women.

The common law of the United States has some curious provisions regarding the rights of married women, though in all the States there are statutory provisions essentially modifying this law. As it now stands the husband is responsible for necessaries supplied to the wife even should he not fail to supply them himself, and is held liable if he turn her from his house, or otherwise separates himself from her without good cause. He is not held liable if the wife deserts him, or if he turns her away for good cause. If she leaves him through good cause, then he is libel. If a man lives with a woman as his wife, and so represents her, even though this representation is made to one who know she is not, he is liable the same way as if she were his wife.

In many of the States ante-marriage contracts are recognized, and they will secure to married women even greater privileges than are intended to be secured by statute, or greater powers and rights may be secured by transferring the property owned by them to trustees. Such instruments should clearly set forth what the trust is, and should be carefully drawn.

When estates are to be settled where the widow is entitled to a dower interest, some definite calculation is necessary to learn how long she will probably live and the present value of her interest in the estate. For this purpose the following table is generally used. When the sum is ascertained the estate can be promptly settled.

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