Estate of Wilson: Domestic partnership agreements provide domestic partners with essentially the same property rights as spouses.
By Garrett C. Dailey, Family Law Specialist
FACTS: In 2006, parties executed the “Pre Registration Domestic Partnership Agreement” (DPA) and then registered as domestic partners. The agreement waived any interest in future property, income, or estate of the other. Parties married in 2008 in CA and then H1 died. H2 filed a petition claiming an omitted spouse’s interest in H1’s estate. Probate Ct. rejected claim. Although it agreed that H2 was an omitted spouse, the waivers in the DPA remained valid after marriage. H2 appealed, claiming the marriage license constituted a signed writing that terminated the DPA. Court of Appeal affirmed.
Estate of Wilson: Domestic Partners Have the Same Property Rights as Spouses
HELD: Domestic partnership agreements enforceable under the UPAA and made after statutes were enacted, providing domestic partners with essentially the same property rights as spouses, are not automatically invalidated by a marriage license.
Parties agreed that H2 was a pretermitted spouse under Probate Code section 21610. When DPA was signed, the Domestic Partner Act had been enacted and the property rights for domestic partners were essentially the same as those for married couples. H2 did not challenge the validity of the DPA, which provided mutual waivers of the right to receive property from the estate of the other except by a later executed writing. Instead, H2 argued that the marriage license, signed by both, constituted a written agreement terminating the DPA.
Just as a marriage does not invalidate a premarital agreement, neither does a domestic partnership invalidate a DPA:
“The fact that one agreement is named a domestic partnership agreement and another is named a prenuptial agreement is insignificant as the purpose of both is to permit the parties to enter into a contract that reflects their wishes regarding the property they own and will acquire in the future. A marriage by a same-sex couple in 2008 after the couple had previously registered their domestic partnership did not provide the couple with any additional state property rights or obligations. [¶] . . . The domestic partnership agreement serves the same function as a premarital agreement and, unless the express terms of the agreement provide otherwise, it remains in effect during a marriage.” (Estate of Wilson, supra, 211 Cal.App.4th at p. 1296.)
Court agreed that marriages and registered domestic partnerships were not identical, but: “The significant differences between marriages and domestic partnerships do not blur their similarities. The state property rights and obligations of spouses and domestic partners do not differ significantly. [Citations.] Thus, a preregistration domestic partnership agreement that was executed after the enactment of the Domestic Partner Act and enforceable under the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act is not automatically invalidated by a marriage license.” (Estate of Wilson, supra, 211 Cal.App.4th at p. 1297.)
Court concluded the DPA constituted an enforceable waiver of omitted spouse rights.
Garrett C. Dailey is a Certified Family Law Specialist focusing on appellate issues and consultations, a Fellow in American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and publisher/co-author of ATTORNEY’S BRIEFCASE® CALIFORNIA FAMILY LAW, California’s oldest provider of self-contained legal research software. BriefCase is available online and through the Attorney’s BriefCase iPad® app. For more information visit them at www.atybriefcase.com. Also check out their FREE legal education log at www.MyLegalEducationLog.com.
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