Have you inherited property, heirlooms, money from your family and wondering how to protect what is yours in the event you and your spouse decide to divorce? What is considered marital property when determining property division in a divorce? This can vary depending on the circumstances unique to your situation. However, there are steps you can take to improve your outcome in the event of a divorce.
First and foremost, if you are not married yet but are planning to get married soon, you should consider a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. This will help shield your assets such as money, an inherited business or property. While not full proof, a prenuptial agreement can declare what inheritances or gifts each spouse agrees to surrender rights to in the event of divorce.
Another important point to consider is safeguarding documentation regarding the intended beneficiary of a gift or inheritance. If you do have something in writing such as letters from a family member describing the designated recipient of a gift, keep these items in a safe place. This form of documentation showing intent may help you when dividing property in a divorce.
Never co-mingle inherited money or other assets into an account with your spouse’s funds. Keep your assets in a separate bank or investment account and, again, save documentation. When couples pool their money, it is difficult to differentiate who has claim to it, even if some of it was specifically given to one recipient.
As far as more expensive gifts such as homes, or assets, consider a trust. If you are considering giving one of your children a home, you may be able to prevent it from becoming marital property by establishing a trust with certain provisions to stop assets from going to your spouse in the event of divorce.
One way to attempt to protect separately owed property purchased before the marriage is to keep the titles in your name only. Do not add your partners name to existing deeds and, if you plan to purchase something during the marriage with your inheritance, do not include your spouse either if you are hoping to keep it as separate property. Property maintained in only your name may be viewed differently if the property is maintained out of joint funds.
If you or a family member have questions regarding inheritances or division of property in Massachusetts and want to get more information on how to safeguard your inheritance, contact David M. Gabriel and Associates.