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Plan ahead to protect inheritances in a divorce

Being left an inheritance likely gives you a windfall that you might not have been expecting. If you are married and that inheritance is given to only you, it is crucial that you take the necessary steps to protect that inheritance from having to be divided if you end up going through a divorce. Doing this can sometimes be very simple, but it can also be complicated.

One important way that you can keep the inheritance protected is to come to an agreement with your spouse before the divorce is brought up. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are the best ways you can do this. Entering into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement is something that shouldn't be done at the last minute or during a stressful time because acting too quickly or completing the agreement under duress can invalidate the agreement.

If you don't have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, you should save all the documentation that you have pertaining to the inheritance. This is especially important if you have proof that the gift was meant specifically for you. The more information you have about the inheritance, the more likely you are going to be able to keep it.

You should also keep the inheritance in separate accounts. This means that you can't use the inheritance for marital items and you can't use marital income to care for the inheritance. If you receive a monetary inheritance and spend it during the marriage, you likely won't get to reclaim that money in the divorce.

If you haven't taken steps to protect your inheritance, you should try to find out if you do have any options to keep the inheritance. This might include having to use creative methods to divide assets.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "How to Keep Your Inheritance in a Divorce," Neil Parmar, accessed July 08, 2016

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