I received a large sum of money through gifts and inheritance and have kept it in separate accounts. They have not been co-mingled into the marriage so my spouse cannot touch it in the event of a divorce. I now have it in CD’s but would like to invest the separate money into other investments, mostly into real estate with a little put into stocks and bonds. Can I do this and still be assured that the separate money I put up and any appreciation from the investments will still remain separate property and not subject to division in the event of a divorce? Would putting the separate property, gifts, inheritance, and real estate I owned before the marriage into a trust help in any way?
Understand that in a legal proceeding, nothing is assured. The other party in a legal action can ask the court for whatever that party wants, and what that party has requested is certainly a possibility. Now, whether that is a probability is another issue. The efforts you describe above in keeping all of your gift and inheritance money separate and not commingling the funds with those that are marital make it probable that you will be able to retain the value of your gifts and inheritance without having to classify it as marital property subject to division. Your wife’s strongest argument in claiming any of the property is that the appreciation in value of your separate assets is marital. Note that the laws regarding treatment of gifts and inheritance and separate property vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so to answer your question in regard to whether putting your separate property into a trust would help in any way, I would advise you to consult with a local attorney.
Claudia J. Weaver is an Associate Attorney with Cordell & Cordell, P.C., in Overland Park, Kansas. Ms. Weaver practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations.