The first step in any discussion on how to divide assets, starts with identifying which assets are marital. One common question that arises when dividing assets during a Maryland divorce is: Does my spouse have rights to my inheritance?
Generally speaking, your spouse does not have rights to your inheritance in a divorce in Maryland. The court only has the authority to divide marital assets. Property or assets you have received during your marriage by way of an inheritance are typically considered as non-marital and thus can not be divided by the court. However, your inheritance could be at risk if the court considers it “marital” property. The most common reason for this would be if you commingle your inherited assets with your spouse’s.
For example, any time non-marital property is mixed with marital property, the entire asset could potentially become marital property if you are unable to trace its source. Commingling of assets can occur when:
Your uncle left you his house in Howard County, Maryland after he passed away. You decided to sell the property and used the proceeds to purchase a new home with your spouse. Both spouses are on the title to the house and you both contribute towards the mortgage payments. You did not sign an agreement to keep the house as your separate property.
- Your aunt gifted you $10,000 and you deposited those funds into a joint account with your spouse. You spend that money on things for the family.
Your grandfather left you his expensive watch. You sell the watch and use the proceeds to buy a new car with your spouse on the title.On the contrary, here are some situations where your inherited assets can remain your property alone:
Your uncle left you his home in Annapolis, Maryland after he passed away and you did not include your spouse on the deed. You rent the home and deposit the proceeds into a separate account that you own. You do not pay for anything relating to the house from the money you earn from your paycheck or joint accounts with your spouse.
- Your aunt gifted you $10,000 and you deposited the funds into an account of which you are the sole owner. You do not use that money to buy things for the family and do not deposit any marital money into the separate account.
Your grandfather left you his expensive watch. You hold onto the watch, continuing to wear it to this day.
Remember, as long as you keep your inheritance separate from your spouse and your marriage, it will be considered your non-marital property in a divorce. Another thing to consider for protecting your inheritance in a divorce is signing a separation agreement with your spouse or a prenuptial agreement that specifies any funds from an inheritance will remain your non-marital property.