Is Inheritance Considered in a Florida Divorce Settlement?     

How divorce impacts inheritance in Florida                     

The division of your property can be the most complex divorce issue to resolve, and the situation might be even trickier if you’ve received a substantial inheritance over the course of your marriage. Florida is an equitable distribution state, so each spouse keeps their separate property and divides the marital estate in a manner that is fair, but not necessarily equal. Whether you keep your inheritance or share it with your spouse depends on many factors, including the timing of the bequest and how you subsequently treated the asset. At Rafool, PLLC in Miami, our attorneys have extensive experience in the division of high net worth marital estates, and the potential impact of divorce on inheritance in Florida. We know how to support your claim for exclusive or shared ownership of property, and we work tirelessly to deliver the best possible outcomes in your case.

Inheritance before and after marriage

If you received a bequest before your marriage, the law presumes the assets are your separate property. Even during the marriage, an inheritance left to one spouse is considered separate. However, assets can become part of the marital estate if they are commingled with shared property or given as a gift to one’s partner. For example, if you received $30,000 and used it to buy a car you owned individually and used exclusively, the car would be separate property. However, a car that you shared with your spouse could be considered a gift and part of the divisible marital estate. If you used inherited money to remodel the home you share, those funds would likely be seen as commingled, unless you had specifically drafted a loan agreement and had planned to repay yourself with funds from the marital estate.

An inheritance left to a couple jointly is marital property subject to distribution among the parties upon their divorce. Married people who receive an individual bequest and wish to maintain the separate status of the property must take care to avoid commingling.

Separated but not divorced

Florida does not recognize legal separation as a distinct status, so inheritances would follow the rules for a married couple until the divorce is granted. A complication could arise, however, if you receive a joint inheritance from your relatives while living separately from your spouse. You could argue that since your marriage was effectively over, the bequest should be yours alone, but a court might not agree.

Does an inheritance affect alimony or support? 

Both alimony and child support depend greatly on the ability of a party to pay. If a court decides a spouse is entitled to alimony, their spouse’s large inheritance might increase the amount. On the other hand, a court might deny alimony to a spouse who had received a substantial inheritance, due to a lack of financial need. In the event of a post-divorce inheritance to a paying spouse, a Miami alimony attorney would have to show compelling circumstances to justify an upward modification, but if an inheritance made the recipient spouse financially independent, a decrease or termination would be possible. 

As for child support, courts favor maintaining children at the standard of living they would have enjoyed if their parents had remained married and can examine each parent’s current financial circumstances to adjust an existing rate, so an inheritance could be a factor in a parent’s obligation.

How to protect an inheritance from divorce

A Florida prenuptial agreement is a useful tool for anyone anticipating a large inheritance. If you’ve already received an individual bequest, you might consider a postnuptial agreement to secure your property rights.

Contact an experienced divorce lawyer to discuss the treatment of an inheritance

Rafool, PLLC on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami counsels clients on inheritance as it pertains to divorce. To schedule a consultation, call 305-567-9400 or contact us online.