Community Property on the California Bar Exam
Here, we tell you how to conquer Community Property on the California Bar Exam. Community Property is regularly tested on the California Bar Exam. Unsurprisingly, California law always is applied to these questions. Here, we give you some insight into how Community Property is tested on the California Bar Exam and how you should plan on tackling the subject!
Community Property on the California Bar Exam
1. First, know how Community Property is tested.
As noted above, California law always applies to Community Property questions. Most essays have a “Husband” and “Wife” character beginning with the letters “H” and “W” (e.g., Herb and Wanda, Henry and Wilma, etc.) so if you see “H” and “W” characters, it should be your cue that it is a Community Property question.
Community Property generally is tested on its own rather than with another subject. (Note: there are some exceptions, see the frequency chart.)
2. Use the correct introduction!
To maximize your points on your essay answer, it is good to have a standard introduction when you see Community Property on the California Bar Exam.
As an introduction to your Community Property essay answer, make the following points:
- California is a community property state. All property acquired or earned during a marriage is considered community property. Property acquired before the marriage or by gift, devise, or bequest is presumed separate property.
- [When relevant, insert a rule on quasi-community property: “Quasi-community property is property acquired by either spouse that would have been community property if the spouse had been domiciled in California at the time the property was acquired.”]
- At divorce, community assets are divided equally unless a rule or agreement between the spouses requires division otherwise.
Having a solid introduction will help you maximize your score. It will also give you confidence as you begin writing your Community Property essay answer because you will have something relevant to say right off the bat.
3. Be aware of the highly tested topics.
Unsurprisingly, some topics are tested more than others. (We have a nice overview of these in our California Bar Exam One-Sheets, which you can review here!)
Here are a few California Bar Exam favorites for Community Property:
- Termination of the marital economic community: The marital economic community ends at death, divorce, or when there is a permanent physical separation and intent not to resume the marriage. This latter point—that the marital economic community ends when there is a permanent physical separation with intent to not resume the marriage—has been tested multiple times.
- Separate property: remember that if you can “trace” assets from separate property, the assets will remain separate property, even if they are acquired during the marriage.
- Quasi-community property: quasi-community property is property acquired by a married couple that lived outside of California when the property was acquired but that would be classified as community property if the couple had been living in California.
- Transmutations: This is one of the bar Examiners’ favorites! A transmutation is an agreement made during the marriage to alter the character of an asset (e.g., from separate to community property or vice versa, or from one spouse’s separate property to another). It must be in writing and there is an exception for some gifts. When this is tested, a valid transmutation is almost never found.
- Debts: debts incurred during the marriage are tested in various ways.
By being familiar with the most highly tested topics, you will maximize your chance to get the most points if Community Property is tested!
The best way to get good at Community Property issues is to practice essays. This will get you acquainted with the highly tested issues and you will be able to see how they are actually tested on the exam. You will feel more confident and comfortable walking into the California Bar Exam if you have some practice under your belt!
Here are a few essay questions with student answers that we recommend you practice to get exposed to some highly tested topics in Community Property essay questions:
- July 2016 essay question and student answer (see essay question #5 on the exam)
- July 2015 essay question and student answer (see essay question #4 on the exam)
Good luck studying for the California Bar Exam!
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