What Constitutes Community Property in Washington?
Washington is one of nine community property states.* This means that certain property in a
marriage or domestic partnership is owned jointly by the spouses or partners. It is important to know what property in a
marriage is held separately, and what property is held as community property
since a spouse or partner cannot bequeath more than one-half of the community
community property in Washington?
Any property that is acquired after a marriage is considered community property. It includes 1) all
earnings acquired during the marriage by the wife, 2) all earnings acquired during
the marriage by the husband, 3) all property acquired during the marriage with
those earnings, and 4) any property acquired with “community funds.”
separate property in Washington?
Property that is owned by a spouse before a marriage is
considered the separate property of that spouse. Additionally, any property that is acquired
after a marriage with the rent or profits from property that was owned before
the marriage is also considered separate property. For example, let’s say husband owned a
rental property before the marriage.
After the marriage he purchased a car with the rental income from that
property. Both the rental property and
the car are the separate property of the husband.
Gifts or inheritances acquired during the marriage are also separate
property (as long as they are gifted specifically to one person), as are any
rents or profits that come from them. So
if wife’s uncle left her a beach-front property in his will, it would be
considered the separate property of the wife.
The rental income that came from the property would also be the wife’s
Can my separate
property turn into community property?
It is generally presumed that separate property is intended
by the spouses or partners to remain separate.
It is possible, however, for separate property to “lose” its status. This can happen if: 1) spouses or partners
co-mingle funds so completely with community funds that they can no longer be
distinguished as separate, or 2) both spouses or partners express a clear intention
to have all separate property become community property. This can be accomplished through a Community
Property Agreement. These agreements, however, do present some disadvantages. So it is imperative that you consult with your attorney, to make sure this approach will meet your needs.
What if we move from
a “separate property state” to a “community property state?”
Property that is brought by a couple into a “community
property state” from a “separate property state” remains separate
property. For example, if husband and
wife move from Oregon (a separate property state) to Washington (a community
property state), all the property earned in Oregon by the wife is her separate
property and all the property earned in Oregon by the husband is his separate
property. (An exception to this is if
the husband “gifts” his property to the wife, or vice versa).
* The others are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico,
Texas, and Wisconsin. Alaska is an
“opt-in” state, allowing parties the option of making their property community