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Can you keep your inheritance during a divorce in California?

On Behalf of | Aug 11, 2023 | High-Asset Divorce

Although California is a community property state, your inheritance might be personal property. If you kept your inheritance separate from your marital accounts, then your spouse probably doesn’t have a legal right to the assets during a divorce.

The named beneficiary

One of the factors that California looks at in a high-asset divorce to determine who owns the inheritance is the named beneficiary. If the benefactor chose to leave behind assets for both spouses rather than just one of them, then it’s community property.

Joint account

When a person deposits their inheritance into a joint account, it usually becomes community property. Keeping the inheritance in a personal account helps maintain it as personal property. The account holder must not give their spouse access to the account nor accept deposits from that spouse.

Real estate

If a person inherits a property that needs repairs, it could become community property when their spouse invests money and time into fixing it. This same rule applies to making improvements to the property. Even if these upgrades weren’t essential, they still invested their money and time in the property.

Deeds and titles

Real estate or property that you inherited may be community property if you added your spouse’s name to the deed or title. California law calls this a transmutation of property.

Community property

If you used your inheritance to buy community property, then the community property remains as such. This includes cars, houses and other assets.

If you didn’t turn your inheritance into community property in the above ways, a court will most likely determine it’s your personal property. In situations where you made this mistake, you might be able to come to an agreement with your spouse through mediation that you can keep your original share of your inheritance.