During a California divorce, property division is often a source of discord. While the law is clear as to how certain properties will be categorized, there is still a chance that people will disagree as to who is legally entitled to what. While certain properties like a marital home, automobiles, collectibles and even debt can be scrutinized to determine who should receive or be responsible for it, other properties can be more complex. If there was an inheritance during the marriage, both parties might claim all or part of it belongs to them. Understanding this in the context of the different areas of property is important during a case.
The basics of property and how it impacts inheritances in a divorce
In California, there is community property, separate property and commingled property. Community property is anything that the couple acquires and owns together. Even if a person buys the property with their own money separate from the spouse, it is still community property. Separate property is something that was owned before the marriage. If one spouse owned a home that the couple chooses to live in after the marriage, it is that person’s property. Commingled property is a combination of the two.
An inheritance could be separate if it is not used for anything that is shared in the marriage. If, however, the person used money they received to put a down payment on a vacation property and the couple made mortgage payments while they were married, any subsequent equity is community property. Because California is a community property state, people are often under the impression that everything that was acquired during the marriage will be shared by the parties and it will be split equally. For most things that were accrued after the marriage, that is generally true. However, there are exceptions and an inheritance is one.
Dealing with concerns about property division and inheritances during a divorce
For those who are getting an inheritance or have already received one and are considering divorce, it may be important to understand the potential for confusion and keep it entirely separate. When there is a dispute from either perspective and a spouse who did not receive the inheritance but believes other purchases led to it being commingled property, it is also wise to be aware of the law for property division. To handle this potentially worrisome issue, experienced professionals may be able to help with formulating a viable solution or handling it in court if necessary.