Should a community property agreement be part of your estate plan?

If you are married, you should consider (with the advice and consultation of a qualified estate planning attorney) including a community property agreement in your estate plan.

But before we consider why or why not this agreement might be right in your situation, let’s talk about what one is.

A community property agreement is a contract signed between spouses that says when one of them dies all of the property they own together will transfer directly to the surviving spouse, without having to go through probate.

Probate is the legal process that administers a deceased person’s estate and transfers their assets after they pass away. Probate in Washington state is relatively simple and inexpensive compared to some other states with a community property agreement. However, spouses can avoid unnecessary paperwork and waiting periods to complete property transfers when this agreement is in place.

Is a community property agreement right for you?

A community property agreement might not be right for you and your spouse if you do NOT want all of your property to go to your spouse in your will. For instance, you may have plans to gift property to charity or your children in your will, in addition to or instead of your spouse.

Spouses receiving certain forms of disability benefits may also want to exercise caution when entering into such an agreement. Those on benefits may be disqualified from receiving future benefits if a community property agreement causes them to inherit property above the income limits of various state and federal programs.

Please discuss your options with a qualified estate planning attorney to see if including a community property agreement in your overall estate plan is right for you.