On June 31, 2012, Prince William turned 30 and came into a $15.5 million inheritance from his late mother, Princess Diana’s, estate.  Although that kind of inheritance doesn’t happen every day, many people do inherit something either before or during their marriage.

How an inheritance has been managed during your marriage has a significant impact on its classification and distribution upon your divorce.  Florida law sets forth specific rules as to what is to be done with property inherited by one spouse if their soon-to-be ex claims a portion of it:

  • Your inheritance is considered your separate property.  An inheritance is considered separate (aka non-marital) property.  The Florida divorce courts will generally award your separate property assets to you alone.
  • If you comingled your inheritance, it is presumed to be marital property. If you used your inheritance to make improvements on your family home, put it into a joint account with your spouse, or otherwise mixed or comingled it with marital assets, the court will presume that you intended to share it, and it will be classified as marital property.  Once funds are comingled, it is very difficult to separate them. For one thing, you will need to prove to the court that you never intended to share the inheritance with your spouse.
  • Even if classified as separate property, the inheritance may become part of the equitable distribution. Florida’s equitable distribution laws permit a court to make an unequal distribution if it decides that it is fair under the circumstances. Therefore, although your separate, inherited property will be deemed yours, it is unlikely (but still possible) that the judge may decide to award more of the marital assets to your spouse.
  • Use for child support and alimony payments.  If there are insufficient marital funds to pay child and/or spousal maintenance, the court may decide to order that such obligations be paid from your separate property. On the other hand, if your spouse also has a sizeable inheritance, the judge may decide that they can maintain their standard of living with less alimony.

If you are planning to divorce and have questions regarding the distribution of an inheritance you or your spouse received before or during the marriage, contact our office for a consultation.