Protecting Your Inheritance from Divorce

January 13, 2015

Inheritance from Divorce

Filing for divorce is never simple, especially when it comes to dividing marital assets.  Many are especially fearful of receiving any type of inheritance before or during the marriage.   Inheritance can take the form of a large cash payment, a house, or even a vehicle.  The way divorce attorneys and courts will treat these types of assets during divorce proceedings depends on how they were treated when received.  Rather than fret whether or not the funds can be included in the marital assets, review your presumed marital assets and individual assets with a divorce attorney in Columbus, Ohio. 

Marital property and individual property are treated differently in divorce, and thus must be accurately accounted for before dividing the assets.  Martial property is that which is acquired during the course of the marriage for the benefit of both spouses.  This can include vacation homes, marital homes, and any other property or asset purchased with joint funds.  Individual property includes the items owned by one spouse before the marriage, like a property purchased with individual funds before the marriage began, or any gifts given to one spouse and not the other.  Inheritance can fall into this category of individual property, as long as the inheriting spouse keeps the funds separate and doesn’t co-mingle the funds with marital funds. 

This is much easier to do when receiving property as part of an inheritance.  The property can easily remain classified as an individual asset if you refrain from using it for the benefit of the marriage.  For example, if you receive a vacation home which you rent during the year, the home and the rent proceeds are not considered marital assets as long as they are kept separate and the home is titled only to the inheriting spouse.  When the inheritance is a lump sum, people may find it more difficult to keep the assets out of the pool of marital funds.  Many are tempted to spend inherited cash on a new home or in another way that converts the funds to marital funds.  In this instance, you can open a separate checking or savings account to deposit the inheritance funds, especially if you feel you may seek a divorce in the near future.  Many times divorce can surprise one spouse so it is important to be prepared and keep the assets separate.  Every situation is different, which is why consulting with a divorce attorney is always your best course of action.

An inheritance is at risk when you use the funds to purchase something that can be considered a martial asset.  Revisiting the vacation home example, if you use the funds derived from the sale of the vacation home to purchase a new home for you and your spouse, you have now converted the inheritance from an individual asset to a marital asset.  The funds will no longer be protected from the marital property division during a divorce.  It is always best to review any property sales with an attorney, especially if you are considering divorce. Columbus, Ohio divorce and family law attorneys have the requisite experience and skills to address even the most obscure division of property questions. 

With an increased interest in collectables and memorabilia, many find themselves receiving valuable sports and other memorabilia as part of their inheritance.  These items are treated the same way as other real property.  If you have sold the items and kept the money separate from the marital assets, you can still treat those funds as individual and not divide that during a divorce.  Your inheritance can be protected from division during a divorce with proper guidance and assistance from someone educated in divorce and family law.

Lastly, if you used the inherited funds to contribute to the upkeep or maintenance of a marital asset, the inherited funds are now considered marital assets.  If you sell the baseball card collection or land to renovate your current marital home, you forfeit the individual asset status.  Again, every situation is different so work with a Columbus, Ohio divorce attorney to review the specific status of your inherited property.

If you are considering divorce, it is important to think about the financial ramifications of dividing marital and individual assets.  As a property division lawyer, Columbus native Edward F. Whipps can advise you on the best course of action and the most beneficial division of assets for your future needs. Work with a team of experts to research and properly analyze your financial situation and discover the right settlement solution for you.  Contact the divorce and family law attorneys at Edward F. Whipps & Associates for a free consultation.  To arrange a mutually convenient time for your initial consultation, contact the Columbus office at (614) 461-6006 or the Dublin office at (614) 461-6007.



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