What happens when you inherit money? or a house? or stuff?
It depends on how you treat the money when it first arrives. If you put an inheritance into a joint bank account, or into a joint trading account, in the future the money will be treated as a joint asset. This means if you get divorced down the road you could lose half of your inheritance. So as a general principle, inheritances should always go into a separate account.
Houses are treated specially. If you put a house you inherited from grandma in both names, then it will definitely be split in a divorce. Even if you don’t put both names on the house, your partner could claim that it was the primary marital residence and make a claim for a share.
Alberta operates under the dower act, which is designed to ensure that a spouse cannot be disenfranchised from their share of marital property. The western provinces also have the homestead act which ensures that a spouse can make a claim on the family farm.
This is especially important for someone who inherits a farm or a family business outright. It is very important to discuss the future of this asset with your lawyer and financial advisor before it is even transferred to you.
If you keep the money separate, the original inheritance will probably not be included in any future divorce settlement or separation agreement. However, it is possible that income produced by the asset or the increased value of the asset might be.
So what do you do? Pre-nup. Or co-habitation agreement. Or post-nup. Talk to your significant other, spousal equivalent or current bed-buddy about money, who owns what, who gets what, and how it could play out if things don’t work out.
Talk to your lawyer. A simple pre-nup/co-habitation agreement shouldn’t cost more than a couple hundred bucks, and can save you thousands of dollars and tons of heartbreak down the road. Define who gets what, and where the money goes if something happens.
Although it’s pretty common for someone to leave that inheritance to their own kids, or grandkids, nothing says that you can’t keep the asset separate, and subject to a pre-nup/co-hab agreement in the event of a couple separating, and yet leave the asset to your significant other in your will later.
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