Are you getting a divorce but during your marriage you received an inheritance? Or, are you on the road to divorce but you expect to receive an inheritance while your divorce is pending in the courts? Either way, does your spouse have a right to some, if not half of your inheritance? This is a common question that divorcing spouses ask of their attorneys.
Maryland is an “equitable distribution” state, which means that when a couple divorces, their marital assets are divided in an “equitable” manner, which does not necessarily mean equal. In community property states like California and Nevada, each spouse has a 50 percent interest in the marital estate, but that is not how it works in equitable distribution states like Maryland.
Separate vs. Marital Property
In Maryland, only marital property is subject to division in a divorce. So, the first task at hand is to determine what property is marital and what property is separate. Marital property includes all income and assets acquired during the course of the marriage regardless of who earned the income or whose name is on the title.
Separate property is NOT subject to division in a Maryland divorce. Separate property includes assets and income acquired before the marriage, and it also includes inheritances and gifts received by one spouse alone during the marriage. This means inheritances bequeathed to one spouse during the marriage are not a part of the marital estate, but there are exceptions.
If you were to receive an inheritance during your marriage, the best way to keep it separate and untouchable in a divorce is to deposit it into a separate bank account with only your name on it. If you deposit the inheritance into a joint bank account and then use the inheritance to pay off your mortgage or joint auto loan or to pay household bills or to renovate your house, then the money can lose its separate status. This is called “co-mingling” the inheritance with marital funds and it’s not wise if you want to keep your inheritance separate.
We sincerely hope this information was useful. If you have further questions about how to keep an inheritance separate so it can’t be divided in a divorce, contact us today.