Under California law, property acquired during marriage is considered community property with some exceptions such a gifts and inheritance. However, transmutation plays an important role in the division of property at divorce. Transmutation is the transfer of property rights between the spouses which results in a change of legal or beneficial ownership of the property or estate; separate property can be transmuted to community property or community property can be transmuted to separate property of either spouse. Since transmutation changes the characterization of property during marriage it is a significant issue to consider in family law.

In dealing with the issue of transmutation there are clear and precise steps which must be analyzed. The most important condition is the necessity of writing the transmutation. In this writing, you must illustrate the change in the characterization of the property. This declaration of transmutation must be an express declaration that is consented to or accepted by the spouse whose interest in the property is adversely affected.  Words indicating that a husband or wife is changing their separate property to community property satisfy the MacDonald/Benson test which clearly shows the intention of modifying the property. Notably, extrinsic evidence is not allowed to prove a transmutation, rather a transmutation must be analyzed by looking only at the document.  Additionally, a transmutation must be free of fraud, duress and undue influence to be effective.