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Divorce and inheritance: Don't comingle your inherited money

Imagine your aunt passed away and left you a sizable inheritance. Will these assets be yours and yours alone, or could your spouse take part of them during a divorce?

If you received an inheritance either before or during your marriage, you might not have to divide these assets during your divorce. Every situation is different, but in many cases, your inherited assets will receive special protection and will remain your individual property, even if you received the assets during the course of your marriage.

There is one thing, however, that you must remember after receiving an inheritance during your marriage. If you plan to keep this money as separate property, do not commingle the funds. If you deposit your inherited assets into a joint bank account, or if you use the inherited assets to pay for a jointly held mortgage, the money you commingle will become a part of your marital estate and it will probably be divided during your divorce proceedings.

If you're about to receive an inheritance and you're concerned about preserving this money as your individual property, you might want to draft a prenuptial agreement if you're planning to get married, or a postnuptial agreement if you're already married. These documents can help clarify the way you intend for these assets to be treated should divorce ever become a reality in your relationship.

There are various legal strategies that spouses can employ to protect their inherited assets. The more you learn about your marital property rights, the better chances you'll have of defending them in the event they are challenged during a divorce.

Source: FindLaw, "Inheritance and Divorce," accessed Jan. 5, 2018

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