Does the grant deed turn the entire property into community property? The husband owned the property before marriage, and a grant deed was executed to himself and the wife, making it a community property. Is the entire property considered as community property of only a portion of it?

A grant deed may be a valid instrument for changing a separate property into community property if it is expressly stated in writing, and properly signed by the spouse who previously separately owned the said property. The spouse who separately owned the property may still have a right to reimbursement.

According to the California Family Code:

852.  (a)

“A transmutation of real or personal property is not valid unless made in writing by an express declaration that is made, joined in, consented to, or accepted by the spouse whose interest in the property is adversely affected.”

Such a transfer does not mean that the spouse who previously separately owned the property intends to waive his/her reimbursement right, unless he/she has expressly put it in writing to voluntarily and intentionally waive it. The California Fam. C. states that “the party shall be reimbursed for the party’s contributions to the acquisition of property of the community property estate to the extent the party traces the contributions to a separate property source,” unless he/she has signed a waiver or a document that has an effect of a waiver, giving up his/her right to reimbursement [Fam. C. 2640 (b)].

Property transfers between spouses could be very complex, and spouses may not fully understand the possible consequences of their acts unless they work with an experienced lawyer who can educate them about the intricacies of property relations.

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