When you know that divorce is in your immediate future, you will likely start worrying about the financial implications of the end of your marriage. From consulting with an attorney to trying to build up a savings account, there are many ways people attempt to offset the financial consequences of an impending divorce.
Trying to protect the assets that you perceive as yours or highly valuable is a common strategy, but it is often fraught with difficulty. Some people want to lay claim to assets that they rightfully need to share with their spouses. Other people make minor mistakes during their marriage that could have financial implications in the divorce.
An inheritance can often become a point of contention, even if only one spouse received it. How you handle an inheritance during your marriage will directly impact whether your spouse has a claim to a portion of that inheritance when you divorce in Pennsylvania.
Typically, an inheritance is your separate property
Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, which means that they view both spouses as having joint ownership interests in any assets that the couple acquired during the marriage. However, certain possessions are separate property, owned by one spouse individually.
Gifts obtained from someone outside the marital household are often separate property, as is anything of value owned prior to the marriage. Your inheritance is also theoretically protected as separate property. However, as previously mentioned, how you use and handle your inheritance during the marriage can affect the claim your ex has on those assets.
Be very wary of commingling your assets during your marriage
Many couples will gladly share their assets without any sort of reservation. Unfortunately, letting your ex pull money out of the bank account where you deposited your inheritance check could mean that they have a legal claim to those funds when you get divorced.
If you commingle your inheritance with household funds by depositing them into a joint account or by giving your spouse direct access to those funds for personal use, your spouse may be able to argue that your inheritance became marital property as a result of that commingling. Keeping any inherited wealth in a separate account that is solely in your name is a best practice for anyone with a substantial inheritance coming their way.
If you have already inherited and intend to marry, creating a prenuptial agreement that designates those funds as your separate property regardless of how you use them during the marriage is a good way to protect yourself.
Keeping financial records can help protect your inheritance
The more accurate and thorough the financial records you retain during your marriage, the easier it will be to prove what accounts and funds your spouse had access to and which funds were separate throughout your union. While you may use those funds for the benefit of the household, if they remain in their own account and are untouched by your spouse, they have more protection.