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separate property

n. in community property states (California, Texas, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington), the property owned by one spouse which he/she acquired: a) before marriage, b) by inheritance, c) as a gift, d) assets traceable to other separate property such as money received from sale of a house owned before marriage, and e) property the spouses agree is separate property. State laws vary, but basically separate property can be controlled by the spouse owning it. The laws of descent applied to separate property and right to give separate property by will differ from the treatment of community property. Example: a child may inherit part of one spouse's separate property if there is no will, while community property would pass automatically to the spouse. Upon divorce community property is divided equally, while separate property is kept by the owner without division with the other spouse.

See also: community property 

The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications