Where two parties to a divorce disagree on the ownership of their inheritances and/or how they should be divided, it is best to obtain the help of a seasoned attorney. One of our experienced legal advocates can dig deep through a process called discovery to locate undisclosed assets, liens, and debts. Our team knows to petition the court for restraining orders to prevent your ex from destroying records or hiding money.
Our Alpharetta lawyers can help negotiate a property settlement outside of court to successfully divide or protect your inheritances, including vehicles, privately held businesses, and other assets ahead of trial. No matter how difficult, negotiating the division of inheritance together will result in a more satisfying outcome than leaving the arrangements to factfinders at court (i.e., a judge or jury).
When the values of a couple’s separate inheritances are in question, it becomes advantageous to do market research to ascertain the value of comparable assets. Experienced Alpharetta attorneys who are familiar with dividing and safeguarding inheritances can do this research, or they may work with forensic accountants or appraisers who can write valuations for use in the negotiation process. When both sides have professional appraisals in hand and reputable attorneys by their side, an equitable division of inheritance is possible. And when the property settlement agreement is signed, the rest of the divorce can feel much more manageable.
Assets inherited by one spouse before or during the marriage are generally considered separate property in Georgia and will remain under sole ownership upon divorce. This does not, however, prevent a spouse from requesting that the other spouse’s inheritance be considered part of spousal support. In cases where one spouse is claiming separate inheritance, several factors come into play.
The factfinders (or the couple during negotiations) will need to trace the inherited asset through the duration of the marriage. Was it effectively handed over to the “marital unit” for use by both spouses, or were the funds deposited into a joint account? Was it later gifted by the inheriting spouse to the other? Who holds title to the asset? This is not determinative but does play a role.
Inheritances are not subject to the “source of funds” rule, but their value may have changed during the marriage. If this were due solely to market forces, then the increase (or decrease) in value will be classified with the original asset as the sole property of the inheriting spouse. However, if the change in value was a product of the efforts of the marital unit or even of the other spouse, this complicates the picture.
For example, if factfinders determine that an increase in value was due to the hard work or smart investments of the non-related spouse, they may classify it as the marital property, while the original inheritance may remain the separate property of the inheriting spouse. Improvements made to an inheritance from marital funds will also result in a different division than improvements that were made strictly from the inheriting spouse’s separate funds.
Overall, dividing an inheritance asset in divorce – although seemingly simple on the surface – can become quite complicated when challenged aggressively by the other spouse. It is wise to obtain the services of an experienced Alpharetta lawyer to advocate for your best interests and to protect the intention of your loved one in willing their property to you in the first place.