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Quick Tip: You Can Potentially Save Money Through Transmutation

Posted by Lauren Rios | Oct 11, 2018

If you and your spouse or registered domestic partner purchased property prior to marriage or registration as domestic partners (or hold title to property as joint tenants), you may want to ask an estate planning attorney whether transmuting that property to community property is a good idea. Transmutation is the legal process by which you change the character of property (e.g., separate property to community property). You should note that not all property becomes community property upon marriage. In fact, if you purchased property prior to marriage, that property retains its character as separate property even after marriage or domestic partnership. Furthermore, if you purchased property after marriage and hold it between yourselves as joint tenants, the interest of each spouse is that of an undivided, one-half, separate property interest. There are certain tax advantages in transmuting property to community property. For instance, all property held as community property gets a second adjusted basis upon the second spouse's death. You may have heard it referred to as the "second step-up in basis." Upon the second spouse's death, the capital asset's basis is reset; so, if your beneficiaries decide to sell that asset shortly after the second spouse's death, they will pay little to no capital gains tax. However, you should speak with a knowledgeable attorney because transmutation can have serious legal consequences for couples who decide to end their marriage or domestic partnership. 

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Lauren Rios

Attorney Lauren Rios established her law practice on the philosophy that everyday people deserve access to the exemplary services of a big firm, but with the personal touch of a smaller firm. This belief is reflected in her delivery provided to her clients throughout California.

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