If a man owns home outright and was still married on paper but he and his wife had been living separately for approximately 8 years, what happens to the house?

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If a man owns home outright and was still married on paper but he and his wife had been living separately for approximately 8 years, what happens to the house?

He didn’t pay spousal support if that makes a difference. He didn’t have a Will but did have a son and a daughter. The daughter is an adult with special needs and lives in this home. Only his name was on title and 5 years back taxes were owed. Who owns home?

Asked on December 29, 2015 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If still "married on paper" then he is still married--period. If there is no will, his assets, including the home, passes by intestate succession (the rules for who gets what, when there is no will). In your state, the wife gets his community property (anything acquired during the marriage, even while they were living apart--the law does not judge a couple's living situation) and around half of his separate property (e.g. anything he brought with him into the marriage) while the children get the other half of the separate property. (This is a bit of an oversimplification, but gets the basic idea across.) 
Of course, if back taxes were owed on the home, if those are not paid off, the government may be able to foreclose for unpaid tax.


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