G is for Gifts and Divorce

Exit Strategy Words Stamp Escape Way Out Plan

One of the hardest things about finalizing a divorce is splitting up shared assets. Most people, when happily married, believe in sharing everything equally. Unfortunately that mindset shifts quickly during a divorce. If you have inherited money, a family business, or property, it may be hard to keep those gifts to yourself after a divorce.

Of course, the situation varies not only from couple to couple, but also from state to state. Such states as Vermont, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Connecticut have laws that don’t distinguish between separate and marital property. For states with these laws, you may be able to keep your inherited heirlooms and money, but it will be considered as an asset in the division of property.

Other states can be more lenient, especially if the both spouses are not on the deed or the account information. Also, some couples split amicably. If so, your spouse may not fight you for your grandmother’s ring or your father’s stamp collections if they were given specifically to you. Other couples don’t split amicably, and a ruthless battle over possessions can begin.

Here are some ways to protect yourself and to make sure that if a divorce happens, things turn out fair for both parties.

Negotiate a prenuptial agreement. While these are seldom romantic and seem to forebode a shaky future, they are essential to protect individual assets. It is important to talk to your future spouse about the possibility of such things when inheritances of money, property, and business are sure to be involved in either spouse’s future.

Save all documentation. Save any and all paperwork before and during the marriage that say that any inheritance is meant for just one spouse. If you were gifted a house for your wedding present but it only went to you on the deed than the house is rightfully yours.

Keep all titles in one name. If you and your partner have separately owned property you plan on keeping for the duration of the marriage it is best to keep the paperwork that way too. Also, using inheritance or a joint account to refinance or do major renovations can jeopardize full ownership of separate properties.

While planning for divorce before your wedding may seem bleak, it is the best way to protect both yourself and your spouse from an even bleaker future. And as always, respecting and negotiating with your former spouse goes a long way when trying to figure out a divorce. It may be hard, but in the end it will all work out for the best.

Answers from A to Z

If you would like to learn more about the divorce laws in your state check with the American Bar Association.

About Ann Zuraw

Ann Zuraw, the voice behind "Chicks, Chat and Change", is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®), and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA™).If you have comments on this post contact Ann Zuraw

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