Is Inheritance Protected from Divorce in Florida?
Florida Property Division Laws
Florida operates under the laws of "equitable distribution", which essentially means that the assets and liabilities are divided equitably, but not necessarily equally, between both parties in a divorce. The state's property division laws state that all marital assets and liabilities should be divided during a divorce proceeding in a way that is fair and equitable for both parties involved.
The court determines what is fair based on a consideration of various factors, such as:
- the contribution of each spouse to the marriage,
- the duration of the marriage, and
- the economic circumstances of each spouse.
Marital property is defined as assets and debts acquired during the marriage by either party, with certain exceptions. Non-marital property (or separate property) includes assets acquired before the marriage, as well as gifts and inheritances acquired specifically by one of the spouses (see Florida Statute § 61.075).
During a divorce proceeding, if a couple cannot come to an agreement themselves, the court divides the marital property which includes all assets (and debts) acquired during the marriage. These assets include real estate, investment accounts, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and more. However, non-marital assets are not subject to division.
It is important to note that separate property may become commingled property if it becomes mixed with marital property. For instance, if you put a portion of your inheritance money into the joint savings account you share with your spouse and use it to complete some home improvement projects, the inheritance money has been commingled.
When Does an Inheritance Become Marital Property?
Inheritance doesn’t necessarily become marital property, but it can become subject to division. However, as mentioned, an inheritance can become commingled, and commingled assets are subject to division.
To protect an inheritance from becoming commingled property, it is important to keep it separate from marital assets. The beneficiary should not deposit the inheritance into a joint account or take any other action to commingle the funds with martial money. Instead, it should be kept in a separate account and not used for any marital expenses.
If the beneficiary wants to use the inheritance to invest in marital property such as a house, business, etc., it is recommended that you draft a postnuptial agreement before doing so. This way, the beneficiary can ensure that the inheritance remains separate property and is not subject to division in the event of a divorce. To protect your inheritance, you can also try to negotiate the terms of your property division settlement with your spouse rather than leaving the decision up to the court.
Experienced Florida Divorce Attorney
Dale L. Bernstein, Chartered Law Office handles a wide variety of family law and divorce matters, including property division and postnuptial agreements. If you have an inheritance and want to protect it from division, our attorney can help you determine what your best options are; we can also empower you to make informed case-related decisions.
Schedule a consultation with our attorney today. Call (727) 312-1112.