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Don't let divorce divide your inheritance

Commonly, individuals receive some form of inheritance during their lives. The inherited property could come in the form of physical assets or monetary funds directly bequeathed to the heir. Though you may appreciate the fact that a loved one left you part of his or her estate, you may worry what will happen to that inheritance in the event of your divorce.

When it comes to property division and your inheritance, you may wish to understand how such property is categorized.

Non-marital/separate property

In most cases, inheritances obtained before or during a marriage fall into the separate property category. As a result, your inherited funds and property remain exempt from the possibility of division during divorce. However, some exceptions to this rule do exist.

Commingling funds

If at any point you place your inherited funds into a joint account with your spouse, the term "commingling" will likely come into play. Because your inheritance becomes mixed in with funds from your spouse and becomes money that your spouse could use for his or her needs or wants, your inheritance falls out of the separate property category. As a result, your inherited money could face division if you decide to divorce.

Additionally, your inheritance could face marital property status if you or your spouse deposit marital funds into the inheritance account. Again, this action would result in your inheritance commingling with marital property and, in turn, becoming marital property itself.

Mutual benefit

You may also wish to err on the side of caution when it comes to how you spend any inherited funds. If you use some of the money to make repairs or other improvements to a home shared by you and your spouse, the possibility exists that the funds could become marital property as such uses benefit assets owned by both parties.

Protecting inheritances

If you have concerns regarding assets you have already inherited or an inheritance that may come to you in the future, you may wish to take steps to protect those assets. Creating a prenuptial agreement could allow you to take measures to add the protection you desire. In the event of your divorce, this document could allow you to move more quickly through property division proceedings and maintain control of your inheritance and other detailed assets.

Because state law and other factors could impact the potential for your inheritance to become subject to division during divorce, you may wish to learn more about your protection options and actions that could cause inheritances to fall into the marital property category. Speaking with an experienced Maryland family law attorney could help you better understand how to address you concerns.

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