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2703 Center Street, Deer Park, Texas 77536

How Inheritance Is Treated in a Texas Divorce

Deer Park divorce attorney helps protect legacy assets

Parents and other family members who wish to keep their wealth in the family after they’ve passed on usually do not want what they’ve earned to go to their loved one’s spouse in a divorce. The law gives husbands and wives the chance to keep bequests out of the marital estate and The Law Office of Shelly A. Merchant in Deer Park offers knowledgeable counsel on protecting an inheritance in a Texas divorce. If you have received, or expect to receive, a substantial inheritance, you should develop a strategy to safeguard your legacy even if you currently don’t plan to end your marriage.

Understanding community property in a Texas divorce

The community property law in Texas sets forth that most assets acquired by either spouse while a couple is wed become community property unless alternative arrangements are made. This means that specific items are considered to belong equally to both parties. When it comes to dividing property in a divorce, splitting the funds in a bank account might be relatively simple, but determining how other assets should be distributed could trigger serious disputes. Inheritances left to an individual spouse should not be included within a couple’s community property, but unless you take proper care, those assets could become part of the divisible marital estate.

Safeguarding inherited assets in Texas

There are several steps you can take to keep your inheritance out of the property that is to be divided in a divorce. You might wish to negotiate a prenuptial agreement clearly setting forth that any bequest remains exclusively with the recipient. Should you obtain a substantial inheritance after you’ve been wed, you could opt for a postnuptial agreement expressly relating to those assets. Money, real estate or personal property can also be earmarked for a trust in which you are the exclusive beneficiary. When this occurs, the trust is the official owner of the assets, so they are not considered marital property. If you take a distribution or collect from an inheritance, you should always put the finds in a separate account rather than one you share with your spouse. Our seasoned Texas divorce attorneys can advise you of the best way to proceed based on your particular situation.

Preventing co-mingling of inherited assets

When inherited funds or property are co-mingled with other marital assets, it might be impossible to separate them out in the event of a divorce. Depositing money from a bequest into a joint account or putting it toward an improvement on the family home could transform what you were given into community property. If you receive an inheritance or gift and want to be sure that it remains yours alone should you divorce, you should shield it from becoming marital property by creating a separate account for it, establishing it in a trust that you create or making sure that it remains only in your name.

Documentation is the key to inheritance protection

The recipient of an asset inherited while they were married must be able to demonstrate exactly what was left to them if a dispute exists during their divorce. Legal instruments such as wills and trusts, and other evidence showing that a bequest was specifically left to one individual should be preserved. You should also retain account statements and other documents showing that what you received was not spent or combined with other community property.

Impact of receiving an inheritance prior to, during and after marriage

All assets, including inheritances, acquired prior to a marriage are classified as separate property and should remain with their original owner if the marriage ends. In these situations, the most important thing is to keep the inheritance away from joint accounts or other items that might be considered community property. Even during a marriage, a monetary bequest or some other type of inheritance falls into the category of separate property, but you should take extra care to retain a copy of the will and related materials so your spouse cannot claim that the asset came from somewhere else. Once you are divorced, there is no more community property, but there is a possibility that a large post-marital inheritance might make your ex seek a change to child support or maintenance terms.

Contact a Texas family lawyer to discuss how to protect your inheritance

The Law Office of Shelly A. Merchant in Deer Park advises Texans regarding ways to safeguard their inheritance and other matters involving property division during a divorce. To schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable attorney, please call 281-817-0998 or contact us online.