In community property states, of which Washington is one, the marriage owns all the labor of both persons during the life of the marriage, and everything purchased by the proceeds of this labor belongs to the marriage, unless otherwise gifted or contracted away.
And when the court turns to “characterizing” property as separate or community property, the court looks to the “source of funds” with which the property was purchased. In short, if you cannot “trace” a separate property source for the purchase, then the purchase is presumed to be made with community funds, and the asset is presumed to be community property. “Title” (whose name it is in) does not matter.
Of course, there are exceptions and complexities, for example, if you can claim that when something was titled in your name it was meant to be separate property as a gift, or part of an enforceable property agreement between you and your spouse, then title is evidence of that agreement. Or if an inherited house, that would normally be separate property, is titled in both spouses’ names, that can be evidence that the intention was to gift the property to the community, by the deceased or by the inheriting spouse.
This little sample is not legal advice. It is simply a reminder to seek legal counsel in the face of very complex legal rules. For help understanding these complexities in the laws of Washington State, call Mason Law in Spokane at (509) 443-3681.