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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

Received an inheritance? Don’t commingle it

If you receive an inheritance during your marriage, one of the things you don’t want to do is commingle that asset with your marital assets. What that means is that you should place this money into your own private account or keep it separate, so that you aren’t mixing it in with your shared funds.

Why would you not want to place it in a shared bank account? The simple reason is that if you decide to get a divorce, any money you placed into a shared account may be subject to division. Putting money into that shared account may show that you intended to share the inheritance with your spouse, which would make it more likely for the court to see the inheritance as a marital asset.

Are inheritances normally categorized as marital assets?

Normally, when you get an inheritance, that inheritance is treated as separate property. Inheritances are unique in that way because they were assigned specifically to a certain beneficiary when the decedent passed away.

Inheritances will remain separate so long as they are not commingled. So, if you purchase a home with the inheritance and share it with your spouse, it’s likely that the home will be a marital asset unless you have a postnuptial agreement stating otherwise. Similarly, if you put a portion, or all, of your inheritance into a shared bank account where your spouse is allowed to take out money, then that account will be identified as a shared marital asset in most cases.

To protect your inheritance, you will need to take steps to keep it separated from your shared assets. If you do make purchases that you and your spouse will share, keeping receipts showing that your purchase was made with your inheritance and having a postnuptial agreement in place will help maintain the assets as your own.

If you are getting a divorce now and don’t have those protections in place, you may need to negotiate for a larger portion of your marital assets or take steps to show that the inheritance was not intended to be shared between you and your spouse.