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How inheritances can become marital property

In addition to being a time of emotional turmoil, divorce can also leave one on a financial precipice. For this reason, property division can be an extremely important and hotly contested divorce issue. Although many of these issues can be resolved through settlement negotiations, sometimes the matter is heard before a judge. Regardless of how one approaches marriage dissolution, though, he or she will need to know the law and how it applies to their situation in order to proceed in a way that protects their best interest.

One critical thing to understand is how inheritances are treated in divorce. Many Californians inherit property from relatives when those relatives pass away, so it would seem logical that they, and they alone, retain that property. Under California law, this is basically true. The property inherited will be considered separate property in the event of divorce, although that individual will bear the burden of proving that the property was meant to be passed to him or her and him or her alone.

However, there is a major caveat to this general rule. When an inheritance is comingled, then it becomes marital property subject to equal distribution amongst the spouses. Comingling occurs when the inherited property is somehow mixed with shared assets or the other spouse's assets. This most often occurs when inherited money is deposited into a joint checking account.

Those who are facing property division issues in a divorce need to ensure that they are doing everything to protect their financial interests. This can be done a number of ways, which may include a pre-nuptial agreement, a post-nuptial agreement, or simply putting forth evidence showing that inherited property was kept separate from marital property. To learn more about what can be done to protect one's assets, he or she can speak with an experienced family law attorney.

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