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Inheritances May Cause Headaches When Spouses Aren’t Included

Inheritances May Cause Headaches When Spouses Aren’t IncludedIn these times of uncertainty and risk, we may think about what we have to lose or gain. During the height of the pandemic, many individuals, couples, and families had to move for health or financial reasons. Perhaps someone close to you passed away and left you property. You may be left confused about what to do next, or how you can share the property with others in your life.

It’s important to consider your legal options so that your property is secured or divided in the way you want it to be. A dedicated Charlotte family law attorney can help you go over any will or estate left to you. They can show you how to handle any gifts or inheritances, and they can help you secure your personal property for marriage.

Recently in The Moneyist, Quentin Fottrell responded to a New York wife who wrote in, detailing that she and her husband and child were living in her mother-in-law’s house for a decade. When the mother-in-law left the wife out of the trust for the house and only included her husband, it left the wife wondering if she has any claim on the home. After all, if she was going to be living in it presumably even after her mother-in-law’s death, it wouldn’t be wise to put in all sorts of remodeling and renovations if the house is not in her name.

Thankfully, Fottrell had some advice for her. He agreed with her that the only way she could definitely have ownership in the house was to have her husband sign her onto the deed. The house was his inheritance, and therefore it was not considered to be marital property.

However, another way to have some ownership of the house in the case of a divorce, was if the wife had put significant money into remodeling or renovating. Her  efforts could be seen as contribution to the house, and therefore the house would be a commingled asset, or  shared property. (However, here in North Carolina, commingling is a little more complicated, as we’ll discuss later). Finally, Fottrell concludes by advising the writer it might be best to simply buy a separate home for the family, instead of relying on the inherited home.

What is the difference between marital and separate property in Charlotte?

Knowing what marital and separate property is a good idea, especially when dealing with inherited property. Nobody gets married with a plan to get divorced, but it’s smart to be prepared. During the pandemic, many people and couples moved back in with their parents or another family member. You or your loved one may find yourself in such a similar situation as the Wife from the Moneyist article.

Marital property is any property that you acquired during the marriage. Separate property applies to property you had before your marriage, and such items such as gifts or inheritances. If you end up filing for a divorce, your marital property will be split equitably between you; and you will each keep your own separate property.

Inheritances can come in the form of money, property, or some other sort of asset; and you receive them after the death of the previous owner. Most people usually receive their inheritance via a will or trust. When a property owner passes away without a will (intestate), the estate distributes assets as per North Carolina law, which means everything is likely to go to the spouse and/or children, regardless of what the deceased had intended.

We mentioned securing ownership of the house through money spent on significant renovations. That is one of the exceptions to acquiring some stake in the inheritance. Let’s say you inherited money from a relative. If you then deposit that money into a joint account with your spouse, a court may later decide that that inheritance can be classified as a “gift” to your marriage. If you want to keep your inheritances or personal gifts separate, it’s best to put any money into a separate bank account.

In another case, you might receive a money inheritance, and if you use that to buy joint real estate, that can also be considered marital property. Or if you pay off the mortgage on the joint home or help pay the downpayment on a new joint home, then those again will be considered gifts to your marriage.

What is a premarital or postmarital agreement?

If you’re adamant about making sure that your personal property remains yours, then a premarital or postmarital agreement is something you should explore. A premarital agreement requires that before you’re married, you and your spouse-to-be sign a contract that would list out all the assets (property) and debts (what you owe) of each party. These items would be the separate property that you are bringing into the marriage.

Further, the contract would spell out how property will be shared during the marriage and, in the event of a divoce, how it will be divided. The contract would also dictate who would receive spousal support. A post-marital agreement is the same as a premarital agreement, but the contract is written up after the marriage. It is important that you have a family law attorney there to ensure that your contract fully protects your assets and interests.

Whether you’re in the same sort of situation that the Wife from the Moneyist is in or not, if you are considering getting married, or even if you are already married, securing your property is a smart idea. This is not planning for a divorce, it is providing a safety net for yourself should the worst occur.

An experienced family law lawyer will walk you through the process of either writing up a premarital or post marital agreement, or help you fully understand any will or estate details. Don’t let your assets, financial and legal, fall through the cracks. Call Epperson Law Group, PLLC. We have an expert team to help you. To reserve a consultation with one of our lawyers in Charlotte, Concord, Boone, and Weddington, please call 704-321-0031 or fill out our contact form.