Changing Separate Property Into Community Property

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Can I Change Separate Property Into Community Property? 

For a variety of reasons, spouses may want to change the status or ownership of their separate or community property.  They might do this for convenience or tax reasons.  For example, one spouse may wish to transfer to the community his or her separate real property.  There are two ways to accomplish this.  One is by prenuptial agreement.  The other is by transmutation.

What Is A Transmutation?

A transmuation is an agreement or transaction made between spouses which changes the character of the property.  Transmutations can change separate property into community property or community property into separate property.  

In some states, you can transmute property by an oral agreement, while other states require a written agreement.  In states requiring a written agreement, it may be done by a deed, will, or other document which shows an intent to transfer the character of the property.  Even in the absence of an agreement, separate property may be transmuted if it is mixed with community property so that it is impossible to determine what is separate and what is community property. 

What Is Community Property? 

Currently, eight states use the community property system.  Under this system, property acquired as a result of the energy and skill of either the husband or wife during marriage is considered or presumed to be community property.  Property owned before marriage or acquired by either spouse as a result of a gift or inheritance is separate property. 

Do I Need An Attorney To Help Me Change The Status Of My Separate Or Community Property?

Changing the character of property can sometimes be difficult.  An experienced familty lawyer can help you draft a transmuation or prenuptial agreement that will be legally enforceable.  A family lawyer can also explain your rights and responsibilities.

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Last Modified: 01-31-2013 03:47 PM PST

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