There was a recent story about a California man who was a high-level Silicon Valley executive. He met his sixth wife when he went to a bar where she worked as a waitress. They married. The honeymoon was short-lived. They battled for a while. The man passed away and left his $100 million to each his son and his daughter. For his wife, he left a measly $20.
Unlike other states, California estate planning laws does not have an elective share wherein a spouse is entitled to elect a share of the estate regardless of what it says in the will. This is because California is a community property state, which means that all property acquired during the marriage gets split automatically, 50/50, to each spouse.
Community Property State
California is a community property state and has been since 1850. This is despite the efforts of many to change the law.
The concept behind the law is that all property acquired during the marriage equally belongs to both spouses. Conceptually, both spouses, regardless of their roles, contributed to the success of the marriage. This is applicable when one is a homemaker and the other spouse earns millions of dollars, which is the scenario in our case.
This is also applicable when the parties are not married, i.e. live-in partner, but manage their lives as spouses.