Much of the time, divorcing couples do not have to worry about losing an inheritance. If your parents left money to you and you set it aside — by investing it in your own personal fund, for instance — you likely get to keep it. That money was always intended for you. It’s a separate asset, not a marital asset.
That said, this is not always true, and one of the big reasons that the status of the inheritance changes is that it was commingled. What does this mean and how does it happen?
Mixing assets and giving access to your spouse can commingle an inheritance
Commingling assets is the process of putting them together so that they are intrinsically mixed and available to both you and your spouse. This provides your spouse with easy access to the funds during the marriage, and that access may be enough for them to argue that they changed status and became a jointly-owned asset.
For instance, instead of investing the money, say you added it to your bank account a year ago. In the 12 months since, you’ve paid all of your bills out of that account, including your mortgage. You and your spouse also bought a new car, which you share. When you get divorced, you may claim that the original balance of the inheritance should go back to you, but your spouse may claim that that money was used for bills and the new car, thus saying you should divide what is left.
Clearly, something like this can get very complicated. It’s hard to think of losing an inheritance. Make sure you understand your legal options. An experienced advocate can help you understand more about protecting yourself.