I write this in the midst of a national lockdown due to the Covid pandemic and mingling inherited assets can be as dangerous as mingling with other people outside your bubble.
When somebody receives money or anything else outside their marriage, careful thought should be giving as to how to deal with it. An obvious example is that people pay off the mortgage on their jointly owned home. If this is done, it immediately turns something in one person’s name into a joint asset and will be treated as such on a subsequent divorce.
How does the Court view “mingling” assets?
There is always a balance between tax and other efficiencies on the one hand and protecting what you have on the other. The court, when looking to divide assets, first addresses the couple’s needs. At this stage it does not matter where the assets originates, it will be used.
If there is more than sufficient in the pot to cover everybody’s basic requirements, the source of the asset becomes critical when assessing whether it should be shared. At this point something inherited and kept separate from the family assets is far more likely to remain with the person who received it and be ring-fenced from the sharing exercise.
Protecting inherited assets in divorce
If you want to ensure anything inherited remains available to you alone, you need to keep it in your sole name or recognise the implications of putting some or all of any assets into joint names. The practical advice is that if you receive an asset from outside the marriage or your own endeavours, always think twice before turning it into something joint with your spouse.
Regrettably I have dealt with a number of cases where no sooner have the assets been put into joint names, that the other spouse has decided this was the exact time to start a divorce. One of the ways to help prevent this from happening is by putting in place a pre or post-nuptial agreement.
If in any doubt about what to do with something you receive, contact us to talk through the options so you can protect your position. There are always a number of possibilities.
But be aware that mingling without thinking is dangerous in any context.
This article is part of a series on inherited wealth and the benefits of pre and post-nuptial agreements:
- Second Marriage & Adult Children – how to address financial concerns
- Parents, pre-nups and paying for house deposits
- How can I give my child money without their spouse having a claim?
- Farming pre and post-nups – benefits for succession planning
- Tax Planning for Families – the benefits of pre and post-nuptial agreements
For more information you can watch our video: