California is one of several states that has community property laws. Under the Golden State’s community property system, each spouse receives a co-equal, fifty-percent share in most assets acquired during marriage. While the courts provide reasonably clear-cut definitions of what can be considered community property, couples who relocate to California could face an additional estate planning obstacle: quasi-community property.
California Law and Quasi-Community Property
California law broadly recognizes two forms of property:
Separate property is all property owned by a California resident before marriage, as well as all property acquired by gift, bequest, or inheritance.
Community property is all property acquired by a couple over the course of marriage. Under most circumstances, each spouse is accorded an equal share in community property assets.
However, unlike some other community property states, California recognizes a third, more obscure form of property: quasi-community property. Quasi-community property includes all assets that would have been considered community property if the married couple had been residing in California at the time of the property’s acquisition.
Quasi-Community Property in Intestate Successions
Under the California Probate Code, quasi-community property is distributed as community property for the purposes of intestate succession—with some minor differences. When a spouse passes away with quasi-community property, one-half of the deceased spouse’s quasi-community property passes to the surviving spouse, who will retain their 50% share in the quasi-community property.
However, the deceased spouse’s estate retains no right to this inherited quasi-community property, which becomes the sole and exclusive property of the surviving spouse.
Distributing quasi-community property through a conventional estate plan presents unexpected challenges. While California law permits married couples to independently address quasi-community property concerns before death, understanding what can and cannot be considered quasi-community property can be difficult.
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