For many people, an inheritance from a deceased loved one is more about the sentimental value than the actual monetary value. For this reason, when divorce is imminent, many people want to ensure that their inheritance stays with them. While that should be as simple as showing proof that Grandma Judy passed down her china set or that Uncle Edward wanted you to have his estate in Marco Island, nothing about the law is ever simple, which is why protection and advanced consideration are key to protecting an inheritance. Reach out to the Boca Raton property division lawyers at the Law Offices of David L. Hirschberg, P.A. to discuss what, if any, options you have to protect what is rightfully yours.
The Easy Way to Protect Your Inheritance
By far the easiest way to protect your inheritance is to present documentation that shows that the item, funds, estate, or other asset was handed down to you by a deceased loved one. This can be in the form of a will, deed, letter, gift-tax return, or some other piece of hard evidence stating as much. Unfortunately, things get lost over the course of time, and you may have misplaced the document or lost it altogether. In this case, you should make sure that your inheritance is separate from your marital assets. However, establishing that an asset was handed down is only the first step in establishing that it should be awarded to you.
Keeping Your Inheritance Separate
Florida is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the state divides marital assets in a way in which it determines to be fair. Unlike in a community property state in which all marital assets are divided equally, an equitable distribution state makes property determinations based on who contributed what to the marriage. It is important to note that contribution is not necessarily monetary. For instance, stay at home parents are often awarded the same amount of property as the working parent because he or she contributed to the care of the family and home. That said, if your inheritance is not kept separate from your marital assets, it could be considered marital property and subject to equitable distribution laws. Moreover, even if it is kept separate, if marital effort/labor is used to maintain or enhance the asset, your spouse likely has a claim to a portion of that enhancement.
To prevent your inheritance from being distributed in part to your spouse, store it in a separate bank, account, or trust in order to distinguish it as non-marital property. Unfortunately, doing this only after talks of divorce are underway may not help. If you and your spouse shared the benefits of the inheritance up until you filed for a divorce, the judge may view it as marital property and treat it as such.
Protect Your Inheritance From the Get-Go
The best thing you can do to protect your inheritance is to sign a prenuptial agreement before getting married or ask your spouse to sign a postnuptial agreement if the inheritance is received during the marriage.
If you did not plan for divorce and are now worried about what is to become of your inheritance, retain the help of a Boca Raton property divorce lawyer. Though your best protection is a prenuptial agreement, if you do not have one of those in place, your attorney may be able to negotiate a fair settlement with your spouse’s lawyer. Depending on the state of you and your spouse’s relationship, he or she may be willing to let you keep your inheritance without conditions. However, if you and your spouse are on bad terms, you may have to be willing to give something up in order to get your inheritance in return. Call the Law Offices of David L. Hirschberg, P.A. to discuss your options today.