Drafting Separate Property Agreements

Much like the community property agreement, a separate property agreement is a document drawn up to detail the passage of property when a marriage ends by death or divorce, and to define the character of property owned during a marriage or intimate committed relationship or just while living together. This is a very useful estate planning tool in second marriages with children from previous marriages.

Lawyer Jennifer C. Rydberg represents clients in Kent, Washington, and the Greater Seattle area in all aspects of estate planning. Contact her at 425-235-5535 to discuss drafting an agreement to keep separate assets separate and avoid future litigation.

Characterizing Separate Property

Whereas a community property agreement puts all the couple's assets into the community pot, a separate property agreement identifies which assets will remain in the name of one spouse or partner only, not subject to division in divorce or probate. These agreements can cover:

  • Assets owned before entering marriage or living together
  • Characterization of retirement assets
  • Inheritance or gifts acquired during the marriage
  • Proceeds from the sale of or income from separate property
  • Property generated from a number of unique and specific situations

A separate property agreement can be drafted as a prenuptial agreement (before marriage) to declare that assets brought to the marriage will not become community property. It can also be addressed in a postnuptial or post-marital agreement if unforeseen circumstances arise or the parties simply decide to identify separate property, for instance to protect inheritance rights for their respective children from a first marriage.

Are You in an Intimate Committed Relationship?

Are you living with another adult? Even if you are not married, your property rights could be affected. Washington courts extend the doctrine of community property to intimate committed or "marriage-like" relationships. In the absence of a property agreement, property could be divided similar to a divorce when the relationship ends, either by death or by moving separate ways. This applies to both same-sex couples and heterosexual couples living together, but not legally married. Living together but keeping your assets separate may not, by itself, prevent your partner from having an interest in your property when your relationship ends.

Estate Planning and Family Law Services Since 1978

Attorney Jennifer C. Rydberg applies over 36 years of experience to help Washington state residents achieve their estate planning goals. For one-on-one counseling to produce a legally binding agreement that stands up under Washington law, contact her Kent office at 425-235-5535.