Are Your Inheritances and Gifts Subject to Property Division in Divorce?
Florida, like many other states, is an equitable distribution state, which means a judge will divide marital assets and debts equally Separate property is awarded to the individual spouse. Separate property includes the following:
- Property owned by either spouse before the union or obtained by either spouse after the date of separation;
- Compensation for pain and suffering in personal injury lawsuits;
- Property designated as separate property in a pre- or post-nuptial agreement;
- Gifts to either spouse from a third party; and
When it comes to dividing marital assets each spouse is typically awarded an equal portion regardless of who is listed as a title owner. That does not mean Florida does not recognize separate property. It just means that making a separate determination may require a little more consideration than looking at whose name is on an account. This is especially true when it comes to inheritances and gifts, which are often received during marriages.
Florida Typically Considers Inheritances Separate Property…Unless these assets are comingled.
Florida family courts treat inheritances as separate property. For instance, if you were to receive a large sum of money from a deceased grandmother, and you put the funds in a savings account that is solely in your name, the whole inheritance remains yours and yours alone. If your spouse’s great-uncle passed away and left her a house in the Bahamas, and if you and your family never used the house or sold it and then used the funds for a shared expense, the house to your spouse.
Inheritances can become marital property when they are comingled. For example, if after you received money from your late grandmother, you put the funds into a joint account, those fund become marital.
In the case of your spouse’s late great uncle’s vacation home, if you and your spouse used the home as a vacation home on a regular basis, the court’s may consider it marital property. If your spouse sold the home and used the proceeds to fund the purchase of your marital home, the remaining proceeds and the family home would be considered marital property.
The same concept applies with gifts. If you commingle a gift—whether it be money, an antique car collection, or a vacation home—the courts may treat it as marital property.
How to Protect Your Inheritances
The best way to protect your inheritances and gifts from property division in divorce is to keep your gifts separate throughout your marriage. If you do plan to use funds or gifts to benefit the family, consider drawing up a post-nuptial agreement that clearly states what is to become of the inheritance in the event of a divorce. If you are on the brink of a divorce, it may be too late to do either of these things. However, it is not too late to contact a Boca Raton divorce attorney who can piece together the facts of your case and negotiate with your spouse’s lawyer and possibly a judge regarding what is to become of your inheritance. Take the first step toward protecting your assets today. Contact WiseLieberman, PLLC, by phone or online to schedule a private consultation.