DEFINITION of 'Curtesy'

A common law right of a husband to the estate and property of his deceased wife.
Also known as statutory share, the rights apply to the man if a child was born during the lifetime of the marriage.


When a man's spouse dies, he becomes the beneficiary of her assets. For the right of curtesy to be established, the couple must have born a child during the time of their marriage. The child must be eligible to inherit his mother's estate upon its maturity. The husband who inherits the estate may use it until his death, however, he may not sell or transfer its ownership to any person other than this child.