Yes, Virginia, an inheritance can cause conflict in marriage.
You have recently accepted a large inheritance.
Although you miss your loved one, you know these assets were left to you to be used.
You begin to wonder how to utilize the money and start making “to purchase” lists in your mind.
Then, you pause.
Should your spouse have a say in how the funds are used?
According to a recent The Wall Street Journal article titled “When One Spouse Gets an Inheritance It Can Be Hard on a Marriage, ” this is a complicated question to answer.
First, there may be legal concerns.
While Kansas and Missouri both regard inherited property as separate property, there are ways to mess that up.
If you place inherited funds into a joint account (known in the trade as “commingling”) or title inherited real estate in both names, then dividing the assets later on could be come problematic.
In the event you end up “splitting the sheets,” your ex-spouse may be entitled to half of your inheritance if you merged your ownership.
Even if a divorce is not in your future, you will need to be mindful when spending or investing your inheritance.
If you choose to make a large purchase immediately, you should keep thorough records.
When doing so, it is best to write a check directly from an account specifically dedicated to the inherited funds.
In other words, you want to be able to “follow the money” back to the inheritance should separate ownership of that purchase ever become an issue.
When you place inherited assets in any account, you should put an agreement in writing.
What should this agreement include?
It should stipulate that the inheritance belongs only to the heir in the event of divorce.
If you inherit, your spouse may feel offended if you request to keep the funds separate.
I get that.
Together, you should discuss the risks of commingling inheritances.
Even using your funds for a joint purpose can can be problematic in the future.
Although these conversations are difficult to have, they are important if you do not want your inheritance to ruin your marriage.
Just like the three rules of real estate are location, location, location.
The three rules for a happy marriage are communication, communication, communication.
Reference: The Wall Street Journal (Sep. 13, 2020) “When One Spouse Gets an Inheritance It Can Be Hard on a Marriage”