How to Classify an Asset for Property Division Purposes
You may believe that you are at risk of losing half your belongings if you leave your spouse. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Instead, you generally only risk losing a portion of the assets held inside of the marital estate.
What Is the Marital Estate?
Generally speaking, any assets that are acquired during a marriage are considered to be part of the marital estate. This may be true even if only one person’s name is on the deed or title to the asset. For instance, if you buy a home with your spouse, you generally have an ownership interest in that home even if it is held in your spouse’s name.
It’s also worth noting that price appreciation that occurs in a separate asset after marriage becomes official may be part of the marital estate. For instance, let’s say that you own a home that is worth $100,000 on the date of your wedding. Let’s also say that the home is worth $200,000 when your divorce becomes official.
Your spouse will likely be entitled to a portion of the $100,000 in price appreciation that took place while you were married to them. It’s worth noting that they would be responsible for paying capital gains taxes on any profits that they received from selling a joint asset obtained in a divorce settlement.
What Is Commingling?
Commingling can occur in several different ways. For example, if your spouse deposits money into your personal bank account, that asset may now be considered joint property. The same may be true if your spouse used their money to make repairs to your home, car or other property. Separate assets may become joint assets because you failed to keep accurate records of when they were acquired and who paid to obtain or maintain them.
Tips for Retaining Control of Property After Getting Married
The use of a prenuptial agreement may make it easier to exempt property from being distributed to your spouse in a divorce settlement. Such an agreement may stipulate that your business, home or other property is to be classified as separate property. A divorce lawyer may be able to help you draft a prenuptial agreement that is likely to hold up under scrutiny.
If you aren’t able to create such a contract before your wedding takes place, you can draft a postnuptial agreement after your marriage becomes official. Regardless of when this type of agreement is executed, it’s important to allow your spouse to review it with their own attorney. This may help to ensure that the document won’t be invalidated based on a claim that it was signed under duress.
Putting assets into a trust may also be an effective way to retain control of them after a divorce. In most cases, property held in a trust is considered to be kept outside of the marital estate. Of course, your spouse may challenge the validity of the trust, and it’s possible that a judge will nullify it in the event that the document is not structured properly.
Certain Assets Won’t Automatically Become Part of the Marital Estate
If you received an inheritance while you were married, it remains a part of your separate estate. The same is true of anything that you received as a gift from your spouse, a friend or a family member. Of course, these items can become joint property if they are commingled, which is why it may be best to keep them in a separate account or place them in a trust.
If you need the assistance of a divorce lawyer, you’re encouraged to contact the Law Office of Joanne Kleiner at your earliest convenience. You can call our Jenkintown office by dialing (215) 886-1266, or you can fill out and submit the contact form located on our website.