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How gifts and inheritances are handled when divorcing in Florida

When a couple decides to divorce, finances can quickly become a contentious issue, especially when an individual is faced with having to give up some of his or her hard-earned money, a portion of his or her inheritance or a piece of a monetary gift he or she previously received. The right your spouse has to this money depends greatly as to whether the funds are considered to be either separate or marital property and if your state is a community property or equitable distribution one.

In a state like Florida, which is an equitable distribution one, assets are divided between the couple in a "fair and equitable" way. What this means is that each spouse is entitled to stake a legal claim to any and all marital assets, regardless of who the legal owner is. While the idea of what is fair and equitable doesn't mean that assets are split right down the middle, a judge will base his or her determination as to a proper split on a number of different factors.

One factor a judge will consider includes whether or not the gift of inheritance has been co-mingled with other marital assets. It's not all that uncommon that assets that have been kept exclusively under the control of only one of the spouses will be considered as separate property.

The only exception to this rule are gifts that can be seen as loans. As an example of this, your in-laws might have put up the down payment on your marital home with the expectation that one day you'd pay them back. As a divorce settlement looms, your husband may have convinced his parents to request a repayment of those funds.

Without having a promissory note spelling out what the gift is for and that no repayment is necessary, your spouse may be able to convince a judge to have you turn over that cash. This is why it's important to try to have every single agreement properly documented.

If you've been successful in keeping thorough financial records and finances separate from your spouse over the years, then property division will be much more easily handled. However, if you haven't, you may wish to discuss your situation with a Fort Myers divorce attorney who can help you devise a strategy for holding onto as much of your assets as possible.

Source: dailyworth.com, "Property division in divorce – gifts and inheritance," Jeffrey Landers, accessed June 02, 2017

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