Community property agreements are a tool that you use to help manage your estate. When set up properly, and a probate attorney will help, they serve as powerful tools that spell out what happens to any community property within your estate. In Washington, all assets accumulated by a married couple during their marriage are presumed to be characterized as their community property.  

Assets owned by either spouse before marriage, or received by either spouse as a gift or inheritance during the marriage, remain as the separate property of the spouse that owned or received the assets unless the assets are commingled or otherwise converted into community property.  

Upon the death of one of the spouses, all community property assets are deemed to be transferred into the ownership of the other spouse without the necessity of probate proceedings.

Do You Need A Will and Community Property Agreement?

The first couple of things to know about community property agreements is that they:

  1. They are a contract between two spouses by which the spouses agree to hold certain assets as their community property – – – meaning that each spouse holds an undivided one-half interest in the property in Washington State.
  2. Typically a Community Property Agreement will convert any separate property owned by either spouse into community property.  But it is possible for the parties to exclude certain items of their separate property as such, and retain control over the ownership and disposition of the items of separate property.


That helps to spell out what your spouse gets and what other beneficiaries get after you pass. The framework, also makes it easier for people to contest the automatic switch of ownership from spouse to other beneficiaries. That is one reason why you need a community property agreement in place. 

Do you need a will and a community property agreement? Yes. 

There are many reasons why you may need a Will in addition to a Community Property Agreement.  The principal reason is that the Community Property Agreement only deals with the death of the first spouse.  At the death of the surviving spouse (or if both spouses die in a common disaster), the surviving spouse needs to have a Will or other estate planning device to control the disposition of the estate

How Does a Community Property Agreement Help You?

A community property agreement solves a lot of problems. 

  1. It will help to partition what is truly community property and what is not. The community property agreement will list the assets and debts that are community property, and they can also either by omission or by listing, identify the assets and debts that are not community property.
  2. Help to prevent probate battles between your spouse and beneficiaries. 
  3. Makes it clear to everyone who is a beneficiary what your spouse gets. That process can eliminate the arguments over assets.

Community Property Agreements are not for every estate. Working with a probate attorney can help you make sure that your spouse is cared for after you are gone. It can also stop arguments over who gets what when you pass. 

Contact The Law Offices of Dan Kellogg For More Information About Community Property Agreements

A community property agreement is a powerful tool. It is also one of many estate planning tools. Discover if a community property agreement is the right tool for your estate by reaching out to Dan Kellogg for an estate review. Every estate is different, and a review helps you understand the law and distribution of your estate.