Washington is a community property state. This means that for married couples living in Washington State, there is a presumption that what is earned by that couple is community property—each spouse therefore has an automatic vested interest in half of what is earned by the couple as a whole.
This can be a jarring concept for those who move to Washington from out-of-state, and this community property presumption may not jive with what the two of you agreed on prior to the move. However, unless you put that agreement down on paper, the community property presumption will likely apply in the classification of any property earned while in Washington State.
If you wish to change that classification, you can execute either a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is executed before marriage; a postnuptial agreement is executed after marriage. Executing these agreements usually requires full disclosure of your assets to your spouse, and separate legal representation for the two of you throughout the process as you come to an agreement about how to classify and divide your assets in the event of a divorce.
Or, couples could choose to execute a separate property agreement, which could clarify that any income or property earned by a spouse during marriage is the separate property of that spouse. Again, separate legal representation for you and your spouse would be required when drafting and executing this agreement for it to have legal effect.
Lastly, if you are not married but are living with a long-term partner, you may wish to consider executing a Cohabitation Agreement, especially if the two of you jointly purchase property. The Cohabitation Agreement confirms the arrangement between the two of you regarding your legal rights to separately and jointly acquired property. Do NOT assume that just because you two choose not to marry that the other person could not acquire rights to your property, and vice versa. A Cohabitation Agreement clearly defines your respective rights both while living together and in the event of a breakup.
We can walk you through which agreement might be appropriate for you given your circumstances. At the very least, we urge you to start thinking about and discussing these concepts with your partner. Again, the best strategy is to plan now for later. At Ludwick Law Group, we help you do just that.