Written By: Lenorae C. Atter, Attorney at Law
In Florida, when dealing with divorce and post divorce matters numerous issues may come into play, including inheritance. In a divorce, marital properties, assets and debts are subject to equal division between the spouses. So what if one spouse has inheritance monies, properties or other assets? Also, if alimony is based on need, then if a party is most likely going to inherit funds or has already, then does that get calculated into determining whether alimony will be paid and how much? As a Jacksonville divorce attorney I find that many clients are concerned about inheritance and whether things that they received or may receive from a loved one, can impact their divorce.
The division of marital property, assets and debts is based on what was accumulated during the marriage by both parties. However, when someone passes away they may make one spouse a beneficiary to money, property or other assets. When this occurs, where the items go will generally tell you how they will be divided. For example, Jack and Jill are married and while they are married, Jack inherits $50,000 from his relative. The money is kept in a savings account with only Jack’s name on it and is not used for the couple’s living expenses. Jill files for divorce and lists that she wants one-half of the $50,000. Most likely, since the money was not co-mingled (i.e. placed in a joint bank account or used to enhance their lifestyle together), then the money is most likely going to be considered non-marital and will go only to Jack. Had Jack put the money into a joint account or used the funds to benefit them both, then it may be ruled marital funds.
In a case involving alimony, the rules are a little different. In Florida, alimony is based on the need of a spouse, the marital lifestyle, length of the marriage, etc. Well, if one is the beneficiary of money, then the need or ability to pay is lessened. For example, Jack and Jill are married and Jill inherits $100,000 from a relative. Jack and Jill decide to divorce and Jill wants and claims a need for alimony. Well, if the inheritance is considered a non-marital asset, which Jill will take all of, then she has $100,000 available to her immediately. Jack may still have to provide some form of alimony, depending on Jill’s actual needs, the length of the marriage, and Jack’s ability to pay alimony. However, the fact that Jill has some funds available to her will most likely be factored into what her actual needs are. If Jack and Jill have been living on $400,000 per year, then $100,000 is not going to necessarily provide for her needs in the long-term.
If the parties already divorced and Jack was ordered to pay Jill alimony, then Jill inherited money the court may modify the alimony. In Florida, alimony is modifiable unless the parties agree to non-modifiable terms in their final divorce order. If Jack has been ordered to pay Jill alimony and she inherits enough money to provide for her needs for the rest of her life, then Jack may ask the court to modify or terminate alimony. Again, the court looks at the needs of the parties, and if Jill’s needs changed, then she may not qualify to keep alimony now or in the future.
If you are going through a divorce, you should speak with an experienced family law attorney to help you better understand your rights and options.
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