Community Property Laws and Distribution at Death

Community Property Basics in Arizona

Arizona is a Community Property state. All property acquired during marriage, except that is acquired by gift, devise or descent, is presumed to be Community Property.

Property acquired prior to marriage or after marriage by gift, devise or descent is Separate Property unless gifted to the community. If an item is Separate Property, a mere change in its form does not change its character as Separate Property unless it is gifted to the community. The burden of proving an item is Separate Property is on the spouse trying to claim it is Separate Property and it must be shown by clear and convincing evidence that it is Separate Property.

During marriage each spouse has sole management and control over their Separate Property and equal management and control over Community Property. Joinder of both spouses is required for community real property, guaranty, indemnity and suretyship.

Prospective spouses can modify the effect of Arizona’s community property laws by executing a prenuptial agreement.

Distribution at Death

When a spouse dies, that spouse’s Separate Property goes to the deceased’s estate and passes to whoever is named in will or through intestate succession.

The surviving spouse takes one-half of all Community Property and the other half goes to the deceased’s estate and passes to whoever is named in will or through intestate succession. If in a will the deceased devises more than what they have a right to (i.e. devises more than one-half of the Community Property), the surviving spouse can elect to take one-half of the Community Property or whatever is devised in the will.

Joint tenancy property goes to the surviving spouse outside of probate.


A.R.S. 25-211 Property acquired during marriage as community property; exceptions; effect of service of a petition

A.R.S. 25-213 Separate property

A.R.S. 25-214 Management and control

A.R.S. 25-215 Liability of community property and separate property for community and separate debts

A.R.S. 25-217 Ownership of property acquired after moving into state