Property division can be a messy affair in any divorce. Whenever a divorce involves high assets, including such things as inheritances, significant property holdings, retirement accounts and numerous types of accounts, it can be almost nightmarish in complexity.
Property that is to be divided is the marital property of the couple. Normally, marital property is defined as all property obtained during the marriage, even if the property was acquired by only one spouse. However, there are significant exclusions to marital property, including an inheritance that one spouse received during the marriage without the other spouse being named by the grantor.
Inheritances granted to either spouse prior to the marriage are also supposed to be excluded from the marital estate. At times, however, people can lose the inheritance’s immunity from inclusion in the marital estate. When people have deposited inheritance funds into an account held jointly with their spouse, thus commingling the funds, the inheritance may lose its protection as separate property and may then become included as marital property, thus making it subject to division by the court. When the beneficiary never intended the funds to benefit both parties by depositing it in a joint account, they may be able to argue that sharing the proceeds was not their intent, but it will be an uphill battle to prove.
When people are preparing to go through a high net worth divorce, they may benefit by seeking the assistance of a family law attorney who is familiar with the complexities that are inherent in such divorces. An attorney may be able to help locate hidden assets and accounts as well as to help clients with protecting property they have that should normally be considered to be their own separate property and thus not subject to division.
Source: Findlaw, “Inheritance and Divorce“, December 03, 2014