Western Legal History, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 242-279, Summer/Fall 1999
40 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2006
In 1891, the California legislature passed the first law that gave a wife some measure of control over disposition of a married couple's community property. Up until that time, the husband was considered both the owner and manager of the community property and the wife's interest was considered a "mere expectancy." However, in the famous 1897 case involving the prominent Spreckels family, the California Supreme Court "stripped the amendment of 1891, designed to protect married women, of much of its force."
This article explains both the family feud and the legal wrangling that led to the 1897 court case. It also examines the history of the demise of the "mere expectancy" concept and the continuing significance of the retroactivity issue in California community property law. Ironically, all the most recent retroactivity decisions of the California Supreme Court were resolved in favor of protecting wives' rights - the exact opposite of the result in the 1897 Spreckels case.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Goldberg, Charlotte K., A Cauldron of Anger: The Spreckels Family and Reform of California Community Property Law. Western Legal History, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 242-279, Summer/Fall 1999; Loyola-LA Legal Studies Paper No. 2006-38. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=942811