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Home · Guides · What Happens to Community Property After the Death of a Spouse?

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What Happens to Community Property After the Death of a Spouse?

Some states are known as community property states which means that married couples share all of their property equally. Any property that is purchased during the marriage is considered to belong to both partners. Laws regarding the inheritance of community property vary a bit from state to state.

Who inherits a spouse's property may depend on the survivors of that spouse. Certain states allow community property to be inherited by the spouse if children are born of that marriage. If the deceased spouse has children however from another marriage then the surviving spouse only retains half of the community property shared during the marriage. The other half is distributed to the deceased spouse's children from the former marriage.

In some states, the surviving spouse can inherit the property but only after paying certain community debts. Some states also provide stipulations allowing the surviving husband to receive all of the community property upon his wife's death but the surviving wife only receives half of the community property upon her husband's death.

Many states also have stipulations in place governing how the spouse becomes deceased. For instance, if the surviving spouse kills the deceased, he or she is not permitted to inherit any of the shared community property. Only the property that was owned by the spouse before he or she kills their spouse will be treated as community property in this case.

Laws in certain states mandate that the property, upon the death of either spouse, is considered half owned by the surviving spouse and half owned by the deceased spouse. The property of the spouse who is deceased remains subject to distribution based on the laws of each state. Creditors are permitted to receive up to half of this property in order to satisfy a debt. The couple however, is permitted to change their controlling interests in their property.

Most attorneys in community property states will advise their clients to have an estate plan drawn up to avoid disputes that can surface regarding property. The spouses can agree legally that all property will be inherited by the surviving spouse upon the death of either spouse. If either spouse intends to give away shares of his or her community property, this will need to be placed in a legal and binding will. Many legal issues arise due to community property and the distribution of that property when a spouse passes away.

The best way to avoid legalities and confusion is to have an estate plan in place and ensure that the plan is valid and binding. An attorney who specializes in wills and estate planning can help married couples to determine the best course of action for community property and help them to effectively plan their estates so as to avoid any confusion when one spouse dies.

If you live in a community property state, or even if you do not, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney to determine how you should plan your estate for after you are deceased. This helps to eliminate much of the confusion and frustration that families go through with regards to property disbursement.

01.06.2013. 16:44