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By: Scott Grossman on October 18th, 2016

You Cannot Always Tell For Certain Who the Owner Is

Trying to figure out how personal and real property is owned is not always straightforward. Separately owned property is one scenario. In which case, there is no need to investigate any further. On the other hand concurrently owned property does. The latter means that there is more than one owner, which includes:

California has community property laws that apply to property acquired during marriage or domestic partnership. These laws give spouses and domestic partners equal interest in property accumulated during the marriage or domestic partnership. It includes earned income and property purchased with earned income.

After the death of a spouse or domestic partner, it can become far more difficult to determine who inherits what if specific assets are a mixture of community and separate property. This is the case when:

  1. Someone is receiving property over a period of time
  2. Marriage or divorce (or registration or termination of domestic partnership) takes place during this period of time.

Examples of mixed community and separate property

Contract Rights: High-income executives or celebrities may receive compensation over a period of time, based on work performed. The property is considered community if the right to payment, and not the payment itself, arises during marriage or partnership.

Insurance Proceeds: The extent to which proceeds from life insurance on a spouse or partner are considered community property. This depends on the proportion of the premiums paid with community funds — not on the person named as a beneficiary of the policy.

Improvement to Property: The difficulty arises when one spouse or partner uses community funds to make improvements to a property owned separately and vice-versa. Each case will have to be studied on its own merits.

Pensions: Regarded as compensation for work previously performed, retirement income is deemed community property in the proportion of the period during which the retiree was married over the entire period pension rights were earned.

Do you still have questions regarding property? We know this process can be confusing and difficult. Talk to San Diego estate planning and probate attorney Scott Grossman about your situation and the questions you have. Call our lawyers at (888) 443-6590 or (888) 443-6590 for your FREE 30-minute telephone consultation. Also, order our FREE book The Insider’s Guide to California Probate and Trust Administration.