Separate or Marital Property?
A few practical examples illustrate the logic behind designating property separate or marital.
Suppose, right after her wedding to Rufus, Rhonda’s great-aunt leaves her a Tiffany’s jade necklace appraised at $5,000. That inheritance is Rhonda’s separate property. By the same logic, that big-screen television set Rufus got from his brother as a birthday gift belongs to Rufus and is his separate property.
However, when Rufus deposits a $10,000 gift from his folks in his and Rhonda’s joint checking account, that money becomes community property and is marital. And in a community property state, if Rufus buys a motorcycle for himself with money from his income, that motorcycle is community property because he bought it with money earned during he marriage.
Rhonda’s part-time travel agency, which she started before she married Rufus, may become part community property because Rufus can demonstrate that during their marriage he added value to the business.
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SPOUSES CAN DO IT -- The easiest and least expensive way for a couple to divide and distribute the marital estate is for the spouses to do it themselves. Courts approve any settlement that is fair and reasonable. When courts divide property, normally the judge grants each spouse a percentage of the total value.
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