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Community Property

DivorceInheritance Laws

The holdings and resources owned in common by a HUSBAND AND WIFE.

Community PROPERTY LAW concerns the distribution of property acquired by a couple during marriage in the event of the end of the marriage, whether by DIVORCE or death of one of the parties. In community property states all property accumulated by a husband and wife during their marriage becomes joint property even if it was originally acquired in the name of only one partner. The states that utilize a community property method of dividing resources were influenced by the CIVIL LAW system of France, Spain, and Mexico.

Laws vary among the states that recognize community property; however, the basic idea is that a husband and wife each acquire a one-half interest in what is labeled community property. A determining factor in the classification of a particular asset as community property is the time of acquisition. Community property is ordinarily defined as everything the couple owns that is acquired during the marriage with the exception of separate property owned by either of them individually. Separate property is that property that each individual brings into the marriage, in addition to anything that either spouse acquires by inheritance during the marriage.

Generally, four types of property acquired after marriage amount to community property: earnings, damages obtained from a personal injury suit, damages awarded in an industrial accident action, and rents and profits from separate property.

Inheritance Laws

Each spouse owns one-half of the couple's property in community property states, and, therefore, when a husband or wife dies only one-half of the marital property is inheritable since the surviving spouse owns in his or her own right one-half of the marital property.

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