Divorce always carries property concerns. You often hear stories about what someone “kept” or “lost,” suggesting that they had no choice.
Inheritance is an important element of these concerns. A loved one gifted you part of their estate, and you want to make sure it always remains in your care.
In this article, we will discuss how inheritance works within a marriage. We will cover how it is legally classified, how that classification can change, and what you can do to keep your property.
How California Splits Property in a Divorce
California operates under the “community property” system. Essentially, anything that was purchased during a marriage is considered “marital property.” Both spouses own this property equally. Under community property rules, the state attempts to divide all marital property equally between spouses.
Spouses can also have “separate property.” This belongs to only one person. It generally originates from outside the marriage, so the other spouse has no legal claim over it. For instance, anything you owned before the marriage is separate. Also, any inheritance or gifts from someone other than your spouse is separate.
Put simply, inheritance should remain yours alone after the divorce. There are circumstances, however, that can “commingle” separate property. This typically happens when your spouse contributes to the property in question.
Say you inherit a house, and your spouse helps you fix it up. They do physical labor, offer ideas, and even spearhead remodeling projects. This contribution could give them some legal claim over the home in a divorce.
Proving Entitlement to Your Inheritance
Since inheritance is generally separate property, it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep it in the divorce. You must simply trace the property’s origins to the original will or trust, and you remain with you.
If the inheritance is now commingled, however, you must make a case for sole ownership. If your spouse made improvements to the property, you could claim that these additions aren’t significant. Maybe the work itself was minimal, or perhaps it didn’t substantially add value to the property.
Perhaps your spouse actively worked against you. They continually urged you to get rid of the property, or they overtly sabotaged it somehow. In a case like this, it should be simple to convince the court that your spouse has no right to ownership.
If your spouse does successfully prove partial ownership, you may still be able to keep the property. Most likely, you can pay them the difference and walk away with exclusive possession.
Protecting Your Inheritance for the Future
The best way to keep your inheritance is to make sure it remains in your name only. Then, don’t allow your spouse to handle it. If it’s too late for that, don’t give up hope. You can work with a skilled attorney to help secure your property, making sure it remains with its rightful owner.
If you’re concerned about your inheritance in a divorce, contact our office for a free consultation. We may be able to help keep it with you, where it belongs. Our number is (916) 299-3936, and you can contact us online.