People contemplating or going through divorce frequently wonder which assets
are subject to property division and which are not. For example, many
individuals often question if an inheritance is divisible in a divorce.
In all dissolution of marriage cases, the courts in Washington State must
characterize all property presented before it as either separate or community
in nature. Washington is considered a community property state, meaning
that all property acquired during the marriage is presumed to belong to
the marital community unless it can be categorized as separate property.
As a result, property defined as community property must be divided between
parties fairly. Conversely, separate property should not normally be subject
to division between the parties and is normally kept by its single owner.
In most cases, inheritances are not subject to equitable distribution,
lawfully, since they are not considered community property. Rather, inheritances
are considered separate properties, meaning an inheritance belongs to
the person who received the inheritance and it should not normally be
divided between spouses. So, typically only the spouse who received an
inheritance should keep the asset. In addition, any assets acquired using
the inheritance typically belongs to the inheriting spouse.
However, at the time of dissolution, all property, both separate and community
property, is brought before the court for a ‘just and equitable’
distribution. With that in mind, on the right facts, separate property
of one spouse may be awarded to the other spouse to arrive at a fair result.
Further, to award separate property of one spouse to the other spouse,
one must no longer show “exceptional circumstances” as was
once required under earlier case law. It is important therefore to bear
this exception in mind when managing one’s separate assets.
Can Separate Properties Become Commingled or Converted to Community Property?
It is also important to understand that under the laws of Washington State
separate property, such as an inheritance, can become commingled, lose
its separate character, and thus be converted to community property. For
this reason, it is wise to keep separate properties identifiably separate.
Individuals facing the divorce process who are confronted with complications
involving equitable distribution of property should seek legal help right
away. A skilled lawyer can protect the rights, futures, and assets of
individuals dealing with the challenges of divorce.
Contact McKinley Irvin for Help
If you are contemplating divorce and are worried about issues regarding
property division, we encourage you to seek help from our Washington divorce
lawyers as early in the process as possible. At McKinley Irvin, our attorneys
can provide advice specific to your situation and goals. When you entrust
our team with your case, we will put our knowledge and skills to work
protecting what you value most.
Retain the legal representation you need by contacting our
Washington divorce attorneys or filling out a