Q & A: Marital and Non-Marital Property

Q: How do I make sure a gift or inheritance I received, or something I owned before I got married, remains MY property if I end up getting divorced?

A: You may have heard of prenuptial agreements, meant to protect each person’s separate property if they get divorced. Prenuptial agreements are signed before the wedding day, and they are a topic for another day. But what can you do, even after the wedding, to protect something that is given to you and not your spouse? Simple advice: Keep it separate. For instance, if your parents give you (and not your spouse) a check for $10,000 and you want to keep it separate:

  • Make sure the check is made out to you alone.
  • Put the money in a separate account in your name alone.
  • Don’t put “marital money” (such as your income or your spouse’s income) into that account.
  • Be aware that if you use it to pay joint expenses, you have probably lost any claim to it as your “non-marital” property.
  • Although, if you use it to buy an asset like a car, that asset may be your non-marital property!

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The information contained in this Q&A is general legal information; you should not rely on it as legal advice applicable to your particular situation.  Consult an attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.