An important California Appellate Court decision has come down recently regarding the termination of domestic partnership agreements.  In the case of Estate of Wilson (2012) 211 Cal.App.4th 1284, 150 Cal.Rptr.3d 699, the California Court of Appeal affirmed that domestic partners’ subsequent marriage does not invalidate their domestic partnership agreement.  The Court further ruled that the trial court in this case did not err in concluding that surviving spouse’s knowing waiver of right to inherit, which was included in the partnership agreement, prevented him from claiming spousal share as decedent’s pretermitted spouse.

In reaching their decision, the justices traced the history of California law regarding domestic partnerships and same-sex marriages.  In 2003, the Legislature enacted the Domestic Partnership Act, which gave to domestic partners substantially the same rights, benefits, and obligations that married people have, except for those that federal law, the California Constitution, or the initiative statutes reserve solely for married people.

The appellate panel also acknowledged that same-sex marriages were maintained as valid in Strauss v. Horton (2009) 46 Cal.4th 364, 93 Cal.Rptr.3d 591, even though the high court upheld Proposition 8, which limited valid marriages to those between heterosexual couples.  In the case at hand, the question was whether the couple’s marriage license invalidated their domestic partnership.

In reaching their conclusion in the case at hand, the justices determined that if domestic partners have the same rights and protections as married persons, their domestic partnership agreements should be entitled to the same treatment as the prenuptial agreements executed by married people under the Uniform Prenuptial Agreement Act.  In this case, the parties had a signed agreement that contained a specific waiver of the right to inherit each other’s property except through a living trust or will.  It also provided that the agreement could not be changed or terminated without a written instrument signed by both parties.