The Fate of Your Inheritance After Divorce
Most divorce proceedings require that couples grapple with a lot of finance-related issues, including how they will split up their marital assets. This can be a complicated endeavor, especially when it comes to certain types of assets, like inheritances. Read on to learn more about dividing these kinds of unique assets during divorce.
Understanding Equitable Distribution
Every state has its own laws that dictate how divorcing couples must divide their assets. In Florida, courts adhere to the equitable distribution standard, which states that couples must split their marital assets in an equitable, or fair manner. This, however, doesn’t mean that every couple will end up splitting their assets 50/50. Instead, the parties will need to come up with an arrangement that is deemed fair by the court based on a number of different factors, including the length of the marriage, both parties’ incomes, each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, and the financial needs of both parties.
Inheritances as Separate Property
Florida’s equitable distribution standard only applies to marital property, or property that was acquired by either spouse during the marriage. This is true regardless of who actually purchased or acquired the property in question. All other assets, or those acquired by either party before the marriage took place, are categorized as separate property and will typically remain in the sole possession of the original owner. Inheritances are in their own special category because, although they would technically qualify as marital property if received during a couple’s marriage, they still qualify as separate assets if they are left to only one spouse. Basically, if one spouse receives an inheritance during his or her marriage, that inheritance won’t be subject to division during divorce proceedings.
Commingling an Inheritance
The general rule that inheritances received during marriage still qualify as separate property does have an exception that depends on how the assets were used. If, for instance, an inheritance was kept in a separate bank account, then it would likely still remain a separate asset. If, on the other hand, the funds from that inheritance were placed into a joint bank account or even used to purchase marital property then the inheritance could lose its status as separate property. In these cases, the inheritance or the property it was used to purchase would need to be divided equitably. What an equitable division would like, however, would depend on the couple’s specific circumstances and the factors we mentioned earlier.
Protecting an Inheritance
Though inheritances are generally considered separate property, it’s still a good idea to take a few steps to safeguard them in the event of divorce, including:
- Keeping separate accounts, with the inheritance held solely in one spouse’s name;
- Refraining from using inheritances for marital expenses; and
- Entering into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to clearly define the fate of the inheritance if the marriage ends in divorce.
Given the complexities of the property division process during divorce, most couples are encouraged to seek the assistance of a family lawyer before attempting a property settlement on their own.
Largo Divorce Lawyers
For personalized advice during your own divorce, feel free to call the experienced Largo divorce lawyers at Cairns Law. We can help ensure that you receive a fair property settlement for your family. Call us at 727-683-1472 to get started today.