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Community Property vs. Separate Property

Blended families can present unique challenges as part of the San Diego estate administration process. When a decedent dies without leaving behind a will, the property passes according to California’s intestacy statute. The intestacy laws are designed to protect the rights of the decedent’s children when their parent left a spouse from a different relationship. Since interpreting who should receive which share of property can be difficult in blended families, it is vital you contact an experienced California probate lawyer for guidance.

What is Community Property vs. Separate Property?

When a decedent passes away leaving a spouse as well as children from a different marriage, it is important to distinguish between community property and separate property. This is because, if there is no will, community property will usually go entirely to the surviving spouse. Separate property, however, is shared between the spouse and the children. The distinctions between the two types of property are as follows:

  • Community property consists of assets that were acquired during the marriage from earnings or salary.
  • Separate property consists of assets that were brought into the marriage when the decedent got married. It also includes inheritances and gifts made to the decedent.

Despite these definitions, there are many exceptions outlined in California case law. Assets can also change from one type to another in several ways, including:

  • Combining assets together
  • Improving separate property with community property
  • Written agreement between the spouses

In order to prevent costly and lengthy court battles, it is very important to properly distinguish these types of property during the estate administration process. To learn more, view our free guide The Insider’s Guide to California Probate and Trust Administration. Contact an experienced San Diego estate administration attorney for further guidance. Call our toll-free number today at (888) 443-6590.

Scott Grossman

Scott Grossman


The Grossman Law Firm, APC · 525 B Street, Suite 1500, San Diego, CA 92101 · (951) 523-8307

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