For the most part, marriage involves the combining of two lives. However, that does not mean that a complete “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine” system works for all married couples. In fact, many enter a union with their own property which they intend to safeguard should things end in divorce. But how can one help protect separate assets from property distribution should a divorce take place? Here are a few quick tips:
- Have documentation of the value as of the marriage date: The premarital value of an asset could become a key factor in property division. It can sometimes be difficult to attain documentation about this long after the marriage begins, as banks only retain such documents for a certain amount of time. It is worthwhile to spend time searching old emails or files to find possible documentation, or speaking with a financial planner about how to calculate such a valuation as this number will be important to have during the process.
- Retain sole ownership of separate assets: Once a spouse’s name is added to the ownership of an asset (for example, being named on a mortgage), it is more difficult to legally make the argument that it is separate property. So, for example, if a mortgage is refinanced but the property is expected to stay as a separate asset, it is important to keep only one name on the deed.
- Get legal advice: Seeking legal guidance before marriage is a good idea for anybody concerned about keeping their assets separate. This is also a wise decision when doing anything that could involve joint accounts or ownership later on.
In addition to safeguarding assets owned before the marriage, individuals may be concerned with protecting assets gifted from family during the marriage, for example, a vehicle gifted by one’s parents or an inheritance. Generally speaking, if these gifts are given during the marriage, the asset is considered marital. However, individuals who would like to keep these assets separate should do all they can to keep them that way by retaining documentation, not sharing the asset with their partner, and not using the funds for any joint expenses. Once again, seeking advice from a Maryland family lawyer could prove invaluable in these cases.