• Cliff Coulter

What is Community and Separate Property?

Updated: Aug 14

Surprisingly, community property law in Washington, as well as multiple other western states, is based on Spanish community property law. However, each state's legislature has made significant changes to aspects of community property law to reflect equal protections for women and men.


Generally, in the community property system, all property is held jointly unless the spouses agree to own it separately. In other systems the husband owns all the property separately as if the wife did not exist, and then upon the death of the husband the wife would receive a portion of the marital estate as a dower. Furthermore, the common law approach put importance on the name placed on the property of the title and which spouse provided the funds for the acquisition of the property.


Community property, on the other hand, accepts that both spouses are two separate legal entities who came together to make important contributions to the acquisition of family wealth. Thus, marriage is some form of economic partnership. Keep in mind the following:

  • Each spouse has an equal ownership in the marital property

  • Monetary contributions are not superior to other family functions such as bearing children, keeping up the household, and other domestic services.

Definition of Community Property: Property which is equally owned in undivided one-half interests by a husband and wife by reason of their marital status.



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