Divorcing couples in Florida are often faced with the challenge of what to do about inheritance gifted to one spouse or the other. In many cases, inheritance can represent a sizeable portion of a family’s finances, or it serves as the entire “backbone” of a savings account to use in case of an emergency. Does the entirety of that inheritance really just belong to the person named on the will or estate plan? Or do equitable distribution and property division rules in Florida complicate the matter?
It depends on the details of how your personal inheritance was used. Florida, like many states, defaults inheritance as separate property in a divorce that does not need to be split up by equitable distribution. However, your inheritance might not remain separate if it was potentially or subjectively “comingled” with the assets or needs of your spouse.
Inheritance comingling can generally occur in one of two ways:
- Joint accounts: If financial inheritances are deposited into a joint bank account, many family law courts will see it automatically as marital property that needs to be divided up. This is because once money goes into an account with other money, how can you know what dollar was inheritance and what dollar was not? Imagine if you put $5,000 of inheritance into a joint account with $5,000 already in it. Later you purchase upgrades for your car for $5,000. Did you just spend all of your inheritance or all of the shared marital assets? The court often deems it easier to cut the complexities and just say it is all marital assets once it is deposited.
- Joint expenses: Some courts might rule that inherited finances become marital property once it is used to pay for joint expenses and necessities. If you used your inheritance to pay for the majority of your family home, and you and your spouse lived there for many years, the court could be led to believe that the expended funds were meant for the two of you. There is some more room to argue in your favor when it comes to joint expenses, compared to joint accounts, though.
Making your argument known is the base of inheritance division in Florida divorces. The courts can feasibly be influenced to rule one way or the other. It all depends on who makes the right points and backs it with smart evidence.
If you need help vying for your inheritance that you want to keep away from equitable distribution, K. Dean Kantaras, P.A. and our Palm Harbor family law attorneys are here to help. Call (727) 939-6113 or contact us today to set up an initial consultation. We can discuss what is going on and what your next move should be.