Community property is a form of joint property ownership wherein all property and income acquired by one or both spouses during marriage is considered jointly owned and equally shared. Both spouses also share most debts acquired by either of them during marriage.
Property that is acquired before marriage or during legal separation is not considered community property. Likewise, an asset is not community property if it was given to only one of the spouses as a gift or through inheritance. Finally, an asset will also be considered separate property if it is acquired in only one spouse's name and is never used to benefit the other spouse.
Community property also gives each spouse the right of survivorship, meaning that when one spouse dies, his or her interest automatically passes to the other spouse without having to go through probate court.
Acquiring community property is only allowed in the following nine US states: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In Alaska, spouses may opt-in to the community property system if they follow certain rules.
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