Marriage is often about sharing everything. But when a relationship ends in divorce, that perspective can change dramatically. One of the biggest challenges divorcing couples must face is dividing their “marital property.” Marital property is all property acquired by either spouse during a marriage. Assets or items you inherited directly, whether before or during your marriage, are generally considered separate property by the courts. That means you are considered the sole owner, and the assets aren’t in danger during your divorce. Georgia is an equitable distribution state, meaning the courts will accept a fair and reasonable property division agreement. However, understanding where your inheritance falls and how to protect it is important.
Who Owns Inherited Assets?
Generally, inheritances are considered separate property and the person who received it may keep all the funds associated with it. Sometimes ownership of inherited assets can depend on the intent of the donator. If it’s obvious that the inheritance was meant for one person, then that person typically retains sole ownership of the assets, as separate property. If estate documents or other evidence seem to indicate that items were bequeathed with the intent of benefiting both individuals in a marriage, however, the assets could be considered marital property.
The Risks of Commingling Inherited Assets
Marital and separate property can also be mixed together—sometimes called “commingling.” Inheritances can be viewed as marital property by the court if funds from the inheritance are commingled with other marital assets.
For example, if a husband inherited $200,000 from his mother, and he kept that money in a separate deposit or investment account titled in his name only, that inheritance would likely be viewed as his separate property. However, if he deposited that inheritance in a joint account held by him and his wife, or if he used the inheritance for a joint or marital investment, such as remodeling the family home, the inheritance would likely be viewed as marital property.
How You Can Protect Your Inheritance
There are many preemptive actions you can take to ensure your inheritance will be considered separate property upon divorce.
- Save all documentation that proves the inheritance was intended for you alone and not as a gift for both spouses
- Don’t commingle inherited money or other assets in an account that also includes your spouse’s funds. Instead, put it in a separate bank or investment account.
- Keep titles in solely your name
- Place your inheritance in a trust with yourself or your children, and not your spouse, as the beneficiary
Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney Today
Inheritance laws can be convoluted and frankly difficult to understand. If you would like to learn more about how a divorce will affect your inheritance, contact a skilled divorce attorney today. At The Epps Law Group, we have been representing individuals in family law matters for more than 20 years.
To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation in Suwanee, Johns Creek, Cumming, Forsyth County, Gwinnett County, Dawsonville, Dahlonega, Lumpkin County, or Dawson County, please call our office today at
(678) 257-4507. You may also schedule a consultation online.