DISSOLUTION OF MARRIAGE MAY AFFECT CERTAIN RIGHTS
A judgment of dissolution of marriage may cost you various rights that a surviving spouse ordinarily enjoys under California law.
INHERITING OF ESTATE.Property held in joint tenancy or as community property with right of survivorship carries a "right of survivorship" feature. California law generally terminates the right of survivorship in property owned with your spouse upon entry of a judgment of marriage dissolution unless there is clear and convincing evidence of your intent to preserve each other's right of survivorship or the Court otherwise orders. This means that if you or your spouse die:
---BEFORE a judgment is entered terminating the marriage: the right of survivorship feature is preserved, and the court will have no power to apply California community property law to the property held by the spouses in joint tenancy or as community property with right of survivorship and the property would pass (100%) in full to the surviving spouse.
---AFTER a judgment is entered terminating the marriage, but before the court adjudicates a division of the community estate: property held by the spouses in joint tenancy, or as community property with right of survivorship, presumptively will be deemed community property and divided 50/50 under California community property law. The surviving spouse would take a 50% interest in the property, and the deceased's 50% share would pass through his/her estate to his/her heirs.
If you do not wish for your spouse to inherit your estate, you must execute a new will bequeathing your estate to others. If you own any property in joint tenancy with your spouse, you must either file a partition action, or accept the fact that if you die before that joint tenancy property is divided, it will belong entirely to your spouse because the language of how title is held in the deed will be controlling and not the community property presumption.
Even if you desire that your spouse inherit in accordance with your existing will, it is appropriate to re-execute that will, to make it clear that you still want that will to be given effect; once the marital status has been terminated, any previously executed wills will be treated as invalid.
USE OF VALUABLE COMMUNITY ASSETIf you live in or otherwise use a valuable community asset, such as the house you shared with your spouse, before the negotiation of an agreement or entry of a judgment resolving all property issues in your case, you may owe a great deal of money to your spouse in the final division of marital property. A spouse who has exclusive use of a community residence or business after separation may be ordered to reimburse the community for such use.