When you hear terms like “community property” being used, you likely assume that one is referring to divorce proceedings occurring in Woodland Hills. Regarding estate planning, most that we here at the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo assist are surprised to learn that such principles also apply. You might think that the law gives you the freedom to dispose of your property however you wish. Unfortunately, that may not exactly be the case.
The California Probate Code states that upon your death, one-half of the ownership of any community property that you own automatically is granted to the person to whom you are married (or are in a registered domestic partnership with), while the other half remains with you. The Code defines community property as all real property situated in California (and all personal property wherever situated) that you acquire during your marriage while living here or elsewhere. This can include:
- Artwork and collectibles
- Investment and retirement accounts
- Homes and property in California
The same is true with quasi-community property, which describes any property that you and your spouse acquired while married while you were living outside of the state, yet would have qualified as community property here in California. An example would be if you were living in Washington, yet bought a vacation home here in California.
Essentially, the implications that property types have to estate planning are that you cannot give full ownership of community or quasi-community property away in your will. For example, you cannot leave your home to your children while you have a surviving spouse. The only exception would be is if you and your spouse agree (in writing) to divide up ownership of such property on your own terms.
More information of estate property matters can be found here on our site.