Banking Law: Joint Marital Accounts
There are nine community property states, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Alaska also has a provision for community property, although for tax purposes it is not considered a community property state. Banking law may be slightly different in these states, insofar as they may require spouses to agree to allow the other to have their own personal checking or savings account.
While it is fairly common for most married couples to merge their finances shortly after (and sometimes before) marriage, in community property states, banking law joint marital accounts state that bank accounts that are in the name of one spouse would automatically transfer to the other spouse upon death.
This goes for checking accounts, savings accounts and may also impact other non-retirement banking accounts. The only exception to this would be for IRA and HSA accounts where a beneficiary is designated by the account holder. There are even exceptions for IRA and other retirement accounts.
In order for a spouse to designate a non-spousal beneficiary in a community property state, the spouse would have had to sign a waiver allowing a different beneficiary. This includes designating children for beneficiaries and would apply to all accounts that allow for beneficiaries (namely any type of retirement account and health savings accounts).