Receiving an inheritance can be an exciting experience. If your inheritance comes while you’re married, however, it can cause complications if you and your spouse decide to divorce.

It’s essential to take steps early to prevent your inheritance from being eligible for property division.

What is the comingling of assets?

There are two kinds of assets: marital assets and separate assets. Marital assets refer to anything that you and your spouse attain during your marriage, such as a home, income, furniture, or a car. Separate assets include property that you owned before marriage. This can be valuable jewelry, your own vehicle, or debts that you had before you got married.

However, separate assets can sometimes become marital assets if they comingle. An inheritance should be a separate asset but can become marital if you and your spouse have the same access to it. For example, if you receive an inheritance of $10,000, but if you deposit it into a joint banking account where your spouse can access it, then it becomes commingled. Once commingled, your spouse can claim part of your inheritance during the divorce.

What can you do?

Protecting your inheritance requires early planning. If you wait too long, you can risk the comingling of your assets. Here are two crucial steps you can take:

  • Keep your inheritance separate. As stated previously, if you deposit your inheritance into a joint bank account, it will become comingled. Instead, you should create an individual account to store your inheritance, which will allow it to stay separate from your spouse.
  • Keep records related to your inheritance. Documentation can help prove your inheritance is yours, especially if it’s become comingled. Any documents such as titles, deeds, and bank information allow you to clear up your property ownership.

Your inheritance should be your own. You shouldn’t have to fight to keep it during a divorce. By taking these measures as soon as you receive your inheritance, you can protect your assets from property division. If your inheritance has already become comingled, an attorney can offer guidance so you can hold onto what’s rightfully yours.