There is a general rule that all income and property acquired during marriage is community property (belongs to both spouses equally).

However, if a spouse receives a gift or inheritance that becomes the acquiring spouse’s separate property. (California Family Code section 770(a)(2)). We must always look at the donor’s intent when analyzing if it is a gift to an individual, a “joint gift” to two individuals or a “family gift.” The donor’s intent can be ascertained by the document which devises the gift, a verbal attestation or other form of communication. (See Marriage of Camire (1980) 105 CA3d 859; Marriage of Gonzales (1981) 116 CA3d 556; Marriage of Milse (1986) 182 CA3d 203).

Be wary of purported “gifts” that are really just a disguised form of consideration. For example, if a spouse works for a company for years and years, then upon retirement, the company gives spouse a “gift” of a lump sum dollar amount, that can be characterized as community property income


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