When you’re married, you share everything in your lives, even assets that you inherited. Perhaps your parents left you a beautiful vacation home, or you have a rare coin collection from your grandfather. If the marriage ends in divorce, you naturally want to keep that property, especially if it has strong sentimental and financial value.
In New York, assets can only avoid becoming marital property by remaining completely separate. Your uncle may have left that antique roadster only to you, but if your spouse contributed financially towards its maintenance, registration, and other necessities, it can become part of the marital estate.
So how can you prevent this from happening?
Keep a dividing line
The simplest route is to avoid commingling inherited money or property. You can do this by:
- Putting inherited money in an account that does not contain marital funds
- Use your own money to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of assets like vehicles and real estate. If a mortgage must be refinanced, do so in your own name, or it will be difficult to prove that you alone have rights to the property.
- Ensure that only your name is on all titles and registrations. If the asset in question is a motor vehicle, you should be the primary driver.
Maintain proof of ownership
Hold onto any paperwork proving that the money or property was an inheritance. This can include a copy of the will and any written correspondence from the deceased relative that confirms their intention to leave the assets in question to you.
Create a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement
Many couples who go into a marriage with their own assets to protect opt to create a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. These agreements are often used to protect inherited of considerable value, such as:
- Real estate
- Collections of rare items
For example, if you own a family business with your brothers and sisters, a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can help ensure that it stays within the family. Done properly and structured in a way that does not unfairly benefit one spouse over another, an agreement can help shield inherited assets from division and distribution if the couple eventually divorces.
Set up a trust
If a friend or relative has confirmed their intention to leave money or property to you in their will, you can request that they place those assets into a trust. Because the property does not go to you directly, it technically cannot become part of the marital estate. Setting up a trust costs more than simply leaving the asset to you in a will, but the benefits could end up justifying the expense.
If you are engaged to be married and want to protect current and future inheritances, contact a New York family law attorney for strategies that can give you peace of mind and allow you and your future spouse to concentrate on your lives together. Jayson Lutzky is a highly sought after lawyer with an office in the Bronx, NY handling divorce and family law cases. He has more than 34 years of experience and offers free in-person initial consultations. To reach his office, call 718-329-9500 or visit www.mynewyorkcitylawyer.com/map-directions/.