What is Community Property?

Community property (also referred to as marital property) connotes a proprietary relationship whereby assets owned, or liabilities owed by either of a married couple during the currency of their relationship will legally belong to both spouses.

This spousal right is of family law origin, which is hinged on the implied premise that spouses have agreed to own together and share their belongings between themselves. Typical examples of community property include salaries received, a real or personal estate owned, and debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage.

The implication of the community property rule is to the effect that in the event of divorce of the couple, assets or liabilities amassed by each of the spouses in the course of the relationship will be shared accordingly to the benefit or detriment of the other. Similarly, where the death of either spouse occurs, the surviving spouse will assume responsibility for the assets and liabilities of the demised spouse.

As explained above, the community property rule applies only to assets owned or liabilities incurred, in the marriage, by either spouse. Hence, the community property rule may not extend to properties incurred or unsettled debts before or after the marriage.

In some jurisdictions, inheritances that devolve or gifts given to either spouse are exempted from the community property rule. In this manner, such incidences are regarded as the separate properties of either spouse.

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