When Does An Inheritance Become Marital Property In Florida?

when does an inheritance become marital property

When money and marriage mix, it can be a sticky situation. You and your spouse likely shared many things, and if you decide to divorce, untangling your financial lives can be a nightmare. If you or your spouse has received an inheritance, the other may feel entitled to a portion, which raises the question: when does an inheritance become marital property?

Whether you’re going through a divorce or just want to be prepared for the future, here’s everything you need to know about when inheritance becomes marital property and when it remains separate.

Understanding Inheritances and Property Division Laws in Florida

Generally, an inheritance is considered separate property under Florida law, meaning it belongs solely to the person who received it – even if they’re married. This contrasts with community or marital property, which consists of assets and debts acquired during the marriage by either spouse and is typically subject to equitable distribution upon divorce.

While Florida is not a community property state, understanding this concept can help clarify when an inheritance might become marital property. To prevent your inheritance from being divided in a potential future divorce, it’s crucial to keep it separate from joint accounts or joint investments and avoid using it for common expenses or improvements on shared assets like your home.

When is an Inheritance Considered Marital Property in a Divorce?

In Florida, marital property is any asset or debt acquired by either spouse during the marriage, with some exceptions like inheritances or gifts specifically given to one spouse.

When an inheritance becomes marital property, it transforms from being considered separate property owned by one spouse to a marital asset subject to equitable distribution between spouses.

There are several ways an inheritance can become marital property in Florida:

  • Commingling: If you commingle your inheritance with other jointly-owned assets (e.g., depositing inherited money into a joint bank account), it may lose its status as separate property and become part of the marital estate.
  • Real Property: If you use your inheritance to purchase real property (like a house) and title it jointly with your spouse, this may cause the entire value of the real property to be considered part of the marital estate for purposes of property division.
  • Contribution: If your spouse significantly contributes towards improvements or maintenance on an inherited asset (such as helping renovate an inherited home), this could also lead to a court determining that some portion of the asset’s value should be treated as a marital asset subject to distribution.

In each case, understanding when and how an inheritance becomes marital property is essential in navigating Florida’s complex laws regarding equitable distribution during divorce proceedings.

How Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements Can Help

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are contracts that couples enter into before or after marriage to define the terms of their financial relationship and establish how assets will be divided in case of divorce or death.

In Florida, these agreements can help ensure that your inheritance remains separate property rather than turning into marital property, which would then be subject to equitable distribution upon divorce.

When drafting a prenup or postnup in Florida, it’s essential to explicitly state that any inheritance received during the marriage shall remain separate property. This provision should cover any future inheritances and those already obtained by either party before marriage.

Why You Should Avoid Commingling Assets

Avoid commingling assets in your marriage, as doing so can significantly impact the status of your inheritance and potentially subject it to division during a divorce. When an inheritance becomes commingled with marital property, it loses its separate property status and may be treated as joint property under Florida law.

If you deposit your inheritance into a jointly owned bank account or use it to purchase assets held in both spouses’ names, you risk having those funds treated as community property instead of separate property. To protect your inheritance from becoming marital property in Florida, keep it separate from any jointly owned accounts or assets.

How to Trace and Protect Separate Property in Florida

In Florida, tracing inheritances is necessary to prove that the inherited money or assets have not been commingled with marital funds and should be considered separate property.

To successfully trace your inheritance and prevent it from becoming marital property in Florida, you’ll need to follow some key steps:

  • Keep detailed records: Maintain thorough documentation of the source of your inheritance, including any wills or trust documents.
  • Separate accounts: Deposit your inheritance into a separate account solely in your name and avoid using this account for marital expenses or funds.
  • Do not use inherited funds for joint purposes: Be cautious about using inherited money for marital expenses, home improvements, or joint investments, as this may lead to commingling of funds.
  • Consult an attorney: If you’re unsure about how to properly handle your inherited assets, seek advice from an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process.

Keeping inheritance separate is crucial because once the inheritance becomes marital property in Florida due to the commingling of funds, it can be subject to equitable distribution during a divorce. Tracing inheritances requires diligence and attention to detail. If done correctly, you can protect these valuable assets and ensure they remain yours even if your marriage ends in divorce.

Getting Legal Assistance

Whether you’re in the midst of a divorce or trying to protect your assets, should it ever come to that, having legal assistance is vital. State laws governing this issue can be intricate and may vary depending on individual circumstances, so consulting with a divorce lawyer is highly recommended.

An attorney will provide valuable advice on keeping your inheritance separate and ensuring it does not inadvertently become marital property. They will guide you through the proper steps to take tailored specifically to your unique situation.

Our family law attorneys at Vollrath Law can help you navigate this challenging situation. Our team will provide you with the support you need to protect your rights and assets during this difficult time. Don’t wait until it’s too late – contact us today to schedule a consultation and get the help you need to secure the best possible outcome for your case.

Author Bio

Stephanie Vollrath is an Owner and Partner of Vollrath Law, a Florida estate planning law firm she founded in 2013. With more than seven years of experience in investments and financial advising and 13 years practicing law in Florida, she represented clients in a wide range of estate planning cases. Her practice areas include wills, trusts, guardianship, probate, and other estate planning matters.

Stephanie received her Juris Doctor from the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law and is a member of the Florida Bar and the Seminole County Bar Association.

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