If the beneficiary of an annuity is not the spouse, can the spouse istill be entitled to money in a community property state?

My husband is designated sole beneficiary of an annuity by his deceased father. His deceased father’s wife is claiming it is hers because of community property laws and is contesting in court. Is this true? Or should my husband consult an attorney?

Asked on July 7, 2012 under Estate Planning, California


Cameron Norris, Esq. / Law Office of Gary W. Norris

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You can only give away what you own.  California is a community property state, so each spouse owns half of everything.  You husband's father was allowed to gift his half of the annuity policy to your husband; however, he can't give away his wife's half.  So, your husband is the beneficiary of his father's one half community property interest in the annuity, your husband's father's wife gets the other half. 

That said, if they had a prenuptial agreement that made his earnings his separate property, then your husband owns all of the annuity, but absent that or a similar agreement, he gets half.

Best of luck.


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