When you’re considering a divorce, one of the things you might be worried about is the potential to lose a great deal of an inheritance. The good news is that the majority of inheritances won’t be considered marital property. However, if you share the inheritance or place it in a shared bank account, things could become more complicated.
There may be questions about whether or not you have a right to your partner’s inheritance or if they have a right to yours. If the person who died did not mention your spouse when leaving you an inheritance, it’s initially considered separate property. What you do with that inheritance is what matters most.
How can you protect your inheritance?
The primary way is to keep your inheritance separate from your other funds. Have a separate bank account, and don’t mix the funds with your spouse’s. Once you share your inheritance, you could find it difficult to get the law back on your side when it comes to keeping it separate in divorce.
Although California is a community property state, under California’s laws, inheritances are separate property. They remain separate property of the spouse who obtains them, and the other spouse does not have a legal right to them unless there was an intention to share the inheritance in some way.
A good way to keep your inheritance safe is to put it into a trust or separate account where your spouse does not have access. If you wish to share some of the funds, you should access what you need separately and then redeposit that portion into a shared account.
For example, if your spouse wants $5,000 of the inheritance toward a vacation, don’t just lump the entire inheritance into your shared account. Instead, take out the $5,000 from your separate account and redeposit it. That way, it’s only the $5,000 you deposit that’s divisible if your spouse seeks a divorce, not the entire inheritance.
Inheritances can create difficulties during divorce, but you have a right to protect what you’ve been given. The law traditionally helps those who have inherited money keep it separate. However, keeping the money or assets aside and not merging them with family assets will do more to prove that the inheritance has not been used in a way that shows its intention as a shared asset.
If looking to divorce, it’s in your best interests to work with a professional who is thoroughly familiar with inheritances.