Community Property Laws

A set of laws that govern the division of property and Assets between married couples.

They are based on the concept that both spouses contribute equally to the accumulation of property and assets, and is therefore equally owned by both partners.

Similarly, Debt is equally owned. This is an important concept after the death of a spouse because the debt incurred by either partner is owed by whole couple.

That means that in the event of a death, the deceased partner's Assets or debt goes to the surviving partner, unless a Will obligates otherwise.

In community property states, assets will be divided equally between the spouses upon the death of one spouse, regardless of whether or not a will or other estate planning documents exist.

In this case, Probate may be required to transfer the ownership of the deceased spouse's share of the community property to their Heirs or Beneficiaries.

States that employ this law include:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Note: Alaska, South Dakota, and Tennessee are "opt in" states, meaning it gives partners the choice to be governed by the "community property" system.