Community Property States: Do You Live In One?

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Which states are community property states?

The list of community ownership states includes Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington state, and Wisconsin. Any property acquired by spouses throughout their marriage while living in one of these states will be labeled as community property regardless of who purchases it.

California, Nevada, and Washington also include domestic partnerships under community property law.

Although not a community property state, Alaska has an opt-in community property law. This means that the spouses can divide their property according to the norms of the communal property agreements, but they are not obliged to do so.

Likewise, Tennessee gives married couples the option of transferring assets to a community property trust, but both spouses must agree to a specific set of conditions and requirements. Otherwise, in the event of divorce, the property will be divided according to an equitable distribution.

Exceptions to community property law

There are certain exceptions to community property law. Most states in the United States apply common law property to determine ownership of property acquired during a marriage.

Under common law property, if a member of a married couple acquires separate property during marriage, then the property belongs to that person alone. The only time this is not true is when the property is listed under the names of both spouses.

So, for example, if a married spouse in one of the common law states purchases a vehicle and the vehicle is listed under his name only, it is owned exclusively by that person. In comparison, if that person lived in a state of communal ownership, the vehicle would be considered matrimonial property.

However, there are certain situations where a couple may be exempt from a law on commons. Community property laws do not apply in the following situations:

  • The property was given to a spouse as a gift.
  • One of the spouses inherited the property during the marriage.
  • A person has received property through a will or trust fund.
  • The property was acquired before the start of the marriage.
  • The property was acquired while the spouses were legally separated and lived separately.


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