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When inheritance becomes a marital asset

Florida residents considering divorce may be concerned about how property is divided. In Florida, property is divided equitably between the spouses. There are two types of property in matters of divorce. Marital property is that which is acquired during the marriage. Separate property is the property individuals own before they marry. Marital property is divided in divorce, and separate property is not.

There are exceptions to the rule. If a spouse personally inherits money or real property during the marriage, the inheritance is considered separate property. The same holds true for awards from personal injury lawsuits or gifts. If the funds are mixed with the funds in a joint account, the ability to retain separateness dissolves. Placing joint funds into an inheritance account also commingles the funds. In addition, if inherited funds are used for joint purposes such as home improvements, the inheritance becomes subject to property division.

In some cases, spouses find it beneficial to structure a prenuptial agreement outlining what is shared and what is not. This includes existing inheritance but excludes future inheritance. Even if funds have been combined together, it may be possible to convince the court that the inheritance was not intended to become part of the marital property. This may be complex since the courts demand a high degree of proof.

Consulting with an attorney concerning inheritance might be beneficial. The attorney may provide insight into ways in which separate property may be maintained in a marriage to avoid future problems. In the event of divorce where inherited funds have been commingled, the attorney may offer guidance into proving that they belonged solely to the beneficiary.

Source: Findlaw, "Inheritance and Divorce", November 26, 2014

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