Protecting gifts and inheritances during a divorce

Texas residents going through a divorce may want to know how to protect assets received in the form of gifts and inheritances during the separation. The answer to that question can become complicated, but it tends to depend on whether the assets are classified as marital or separate property.

Separate property includes any assets that a person owned before they were married or were gained after the dissolution of a marriage. Also included are gifts and inheritances, payments received for pain and suffering as the result of a personal injury lawsuit and property designated as separate in a premarital agreement. All other property is considered to be marital property.

Since Texas is a community property state, marital property is owned jointly by both spouses and would usually be split 50-50 in a divorce proceeding, although a court has the power to distribute assets in whatever way it determines to be fair and equitable. The real key in determining whether property is separate or marital is whether or not it has been commingled during the marriage.

A spouse may be able to protect gifts and inheritances if the assets are kept in a separate account belonging to only one spouse. However, if the assets are deposited into a joint account or used to purchase property that will be enjoyed by both spouses, then a court will most likely determine that the assets are marital property. Anyone who needs a better understanding of the law as it relates to property division may want to speak with an attorney who has experience handling Texas divorce cases.

Source: Forbes, "Divorcing Women: Here's How to Protect Your Inheritances And Gifts", Jeff Landers, August 19, 2014

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