What Is A Community Property State, And How Does It Affect Estate Planning?

What Is A Community Property State, And How Does It Affect Estate Planning?

Some states use a community property model to attribute ownership of the property of married individuals. The community property system of ownership segregates property that an individual owned before marriage as well as property received individually as an inheritance or gift as that individual’s separate property. Other property gathered during the marriage, such as wages and items purchased jointly or by either spouse individually, is community property considered to be half-owned by each spouse.

The important distinction of the system is that each spouse is considered to own half of the community property regardless of his or her contribution to the marital assets. Neither spouse can sell or give away part of the community property during the marriage unless the other spouse agrees. Each community property state uses certain variations on the concept, but the basics are the same. Upon death without a will, community property either goes to the surviving spouse or, in some states, to the late spouse’s descendants. If one spouse dies with a will, that document can dispose of separate property and his or her half of the community property but not the surviving spouse’s half of the community property.

Nine states have a community property system: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. The remaining states and the District of Columbia use a common property system, which allows a surviving spouse to make a legal marital share claim on a portion of the late spouse’s estate, regardless of whether that property was gained prior to or during the marriage or by what means.

Plan Your Estate With The Help Of An Experienced Lawyer

When you contact me, attorney Charles M. Hall, you can be sure that your estate plan will be thorough and meet all requirements under Georgia law. To learn more, contact me online or call my Atlanta firm, Charles M. Hall, P.C., at 404-865-1966.