In making a division of property and assets in a divorce proceeding, who gets to keep the property that they inherited?
In a recent Florida Court of Appeals case captioned Gromet v. Jensen, the parties separated after seventeen years of marriage. The husband had placed his entire inheritance from his mother into three financial accounts. The wife contended that these financial accounts had become marital assets because the husband had commingled nonmarital funds and marital funds in these financial accounts, and because the husband managed the activity in these financial accounts during the course of the marriage. The husband admitted that he managed these accounts during the course of the marriage, but contended that these accounts had decreased in value as of the time of the filing of the divorce.
The Court stated that when the husband initially funded these financial accounts, they were nonmarital assets because they were exclusively funded with the husband’s inheritance from his mother. Assets that are acquired separately by either party by inheritance are considered to be nonmarital assets. Assets that were originally nonmarital assets may, however, become marital assets where they are commingled with marital funds. This is especially true with respect to money because money is fungible and can lose its separate character. In Gromet v. Jensen the court found that the husband had not commingled marital and nonmarital funds.
Additionally, in making a division of property and assets in a divorce proceeding, where marital efforts or marital assets are employed to enhance the value of nonmarital assets, the enhancement in value of these nonmarital assets is considered to be a marital asset. The party asserting that the other spouse’s efforts enhanced the value of nonmarital assets has the burden to prove that the spouse utilized marital efforts during the marriage to enhance the value of a nonmarital asset and that these marital efforts actually enhanced the value of the nonmarital asset in a specific amount. In Gromet v. Jensen, the husband’s financial accounts had actually decreased in value by the time the wife filed for divorce. Because the wife failed to establish that her husband’s accounts were enhanced in value due to the husband’s marital efforts, the husband’s nonmarital accounts were not considered to be marital assets.
If you have questions about how inheritances that you have received may be distributed in your divorce case, contact Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A. in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida at (561) 651-7273.