Washington Law Review


This article reports the results of an empirical study of the distribution, disposition and taxation of wealth at death in a community property state—Washington. The study was undertaken in order to extend the existing data base regarding the transmission of property at death to two new areas: (1) the community property states; and (2) transfers by way of probate avoidance devices. The existing data base is derived primarily from three relatively recent studies of the transmission of wealth at death through the estate administration process in common law property states. They provided answers to a host of very important and interesting questions regarding the ownership and disposition of property and the operation of the estate administration processes in noncommunity property jurisdictions. The need to obtain comparable data for a community property state was evident. The progress of the equal rights movement has accentuated the need for empirical studies of co-ownership of marital property in community property states. The results of such studies might (1) allay some fears of common law jurisdictions regarding the complexities and risks of adopting a system of co-owned marital property; (2) provide information with which to address the property ownership problems which may arise from implementation of the Equal Rights Amendment; and (3) aid in dealing with increased numbers of express or implied marital property partnerships in common law jurisdictions. The present study should aid in dealing with such problems by establishing that married persons in a community property state dispose of their property in essentially the same ways as married persons do in common law states. A central finding of this study is that the marital property law appears to have very little impact on the disposition married persons make of their property at death. To place the present study in perspective and to facilitate comparison with common law studies on transmission of wealth, a brief introduction to the three leading studies may be helpful.

First Page


Included in

Family Law Commons