What is Community Property? Do I Need a Pre-Nup?

Washington State (the home base of Limitless Law PLLC) is a community property state. That means when a couple marries or enters into a domestic partnership they are agreeing to share everything in their lives, including property and debt. Community Property can only exist when a couple is legally married or in a registered domestic partnership. Almost any property that is acquired after your wedding day is normally considered to be community property.

So What? What Community Property Means to Married Folks

Washington community property law also has some other surprising implications and consequences for married people. A spouse cannot cut their partner out of their will entirely without written consent from their spouse.  In fact, you cannot give more than half of your community property to someone other than your spouse in your will.  Also, a married person can’t sell any community real property without the other spouse’s consent.

If I’m Married, is ALL of my Stuff Community Property?

Not necessarily.  Even if you are married, not all of your property is automatically considered community.  Property and debt that one spouse has before marriage is separate, as long as the spouse who has that property or debt maintains it as separate and does not mix it with the other spouse’s property.  Separate property can become community property if it is either added into a joint account, if the other spouse’s name is added to the title, or if you spend the separate funds to fix up property owned by both spouses.  Even after you are married, most inheritances and gifts can be kept as your separate property if you do not mix it with community assets.

But What if I want it all to be Community Property?

If you would like to simplify the process of making marital property community property, and make some specific property that would otherwise be separate property community property you might want to consider making a Community Property Agreement as part of your estate planning. A Community Property Agreement can be signed at any time during a marriage and states that the couple’s belongings shall all be community property. You might consider this if you share a house or business together that one of you bought or started before you were married but now both of you share equally. A community property agreement is always automatically nullified when a divorce is filed.

What if I Don’t Want Community Property at all?

If you are planning on getting married in Washington State and you do not want your property to be considered community after marriage, you could sign a prenuptial agreement with your future spouse before you get married. A prenup can also help clarify what will happen if you ever divorce, such as terms of spousal support or alimony.  A pre-nup requires complete disclosure of all income, assets and debts from both future spouses, and each spouse must be represented by a separate attorney in writing up the agreement.  It is important to make sure that you begin the pre-nup process well in advance of your planned wedding date, because it can take some time to finalize the agreement.  The best plan is to start looking for qualified pre-nup attorneys as soon as possible.

If you have questions or concerns about community property or pre-nuptial agreements, call Limitless Law PLLC at (360) 685-0145 or use the “Ask an Attorney” link on our website to contact us today!