I Am Getting Divorced In Texas—How Will It Affect My Inheritance?
If you are considering getting a divorce in Houston, you are probably aware that Texas is a community property state. As succinctly defined by the Texas State Law Library, the community property standards means that “any property acquired by a couple during their marriage (with a few exceptions) is equally owned by both spouses.”
The Texas community property laws can have a significant impact on a divorce. You may be wondering how inheritance is treated in a Texas divorce. The short answer is that inheritance can qualify as ‘separate property’, but there are plenty of exceptions. Here, our Houston divorce attorney provides a more detailed explanation of the Texas laws on inheritance and property division.
The Key Question: Is Inheritance Marital Property or Separate Property?
As noted above, the Texas community property laws state that most property acquired within the course of a marriage is equally owned by both spouses. In contrast, property obtained before the start of a marriage can remain separate property. The distinction is extremely important. In a divorce, marital property is generally 50-50 between the spouses, whereas separate property is retained solely by the individual spouse. Here is a brief overview of how Texas views inheritance:
- Inheritance Acquired Before the Marriage is Assumed to Be Separate Property: Similar to other types of property/assets, inheritance acquired before a marriage is separate property. In this type of circumstance, a prenuptial agreement may be useful to help re-emphasize that fact.
- Inheritance Acquired During a Marriage Can Still Be Kept Separate: Inheritance falls into one of the limited community property exceptions set forth by Texas law. Unlike most other types of property, you can keep your inheritance separate from your spouse—even if you acquired it during the course of your marriage. That being said, you need to proactively keep it separate. Clear boundaries are useful.
- Commingling of Funds Could Turn Inheritance Into Marital Property: The challenge that many people face is that the commingling of funds could turn separate property into marital property. For example, imagine that you inherited $25,000 from a parent in 2005. You deposited that money into a joint checking account held with your spouse. Fifteen years later you file for divorce. A Texas court is likely to rule that those funds were commingled so long ago that they become marital property and are subject to community property rules.
Ultimately, inheritance is a case-by-case issue in Texas divorce cases. While it can certainly be kept as individual property—even if obtained during the course of the marriage—it could also become a marital asset due to commingling. If you have specific concerns, our Houston divorce lawyers can help.
Contact Our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyer Today
At Lindamood & Robinson, P.C., our Houston divorce attorneys are devoted to protecting the rights of our clients and helping them find the best possible solution. If you have any questions about divorce and inheritance, we are more than happy to help you navigate the legal process. Contact us now to set up your confidential case evaluation. Our family lawyers represent clients in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Chambers County. and beyond.