A common question regards just what are Oklahoma divorce laws inheritance issues, or whether an ex-spouse is entitled to the other spouse’s inheritance.
The answer to your question is, it depends. There are several factors that could color how Tulsa divorce law and the court see your inheritance money.
So here are some basics that might help you get a clearer picture of your particular situation.
Marital Assets vs. Separate Assets
In Oklahoma, the courts differentiate between marital assets and personal property assets. Marital assets are those assets obtained during the marriage. That would include income and all things generally associated with what your income will buy: homes, cars, investments, bank accounts, jewelry, and the like.
Most of the assets that a couple obtains during marriage fall into this category. Marital assets belong to both parties and upon divorce, the court is charged with their equitable distribution among the divorcing spouses and their creditors.
Separate assets are assets that either belonged to one of the spouses before the marriage, or were obtained by one of the spouses during the marriage either by gift or inheritance. This is where Oklahoma divorce laws inheritance issues can come into play.
During divorce, gifts and inheritances remain the sole property of the person to whom they were given. The inheritance or gift must have been made solely to the one spouse in order for it to be considered separate.
If the gift or inheritance was given to both spouses, it is considered to be a marital asset. However, if you and your spouse signed a valid prenuptial agreement (sometimes called an “antenuptial agreement”), the terms of the prenuptial agreement may govern the issue.
This is the basic rule, but how the spouse who owns this separate asset treats it during the marriage is a key factor in determining how it will be handled during the divorce.
FAQ: Oklahoma Divorce Laws Inheritance
Under Tulsa law, separate property can be transmuted into marital property if the separate property is co-mingled with other marital property, either for the benefit of the marriage or for the benefit of the other spouse.
Transmutation of property is a legal construct that allows a court to say that the basic nature of the separateness of the property no longer exists. The property has been so much a part of the marital assets, that its nature has been “transmuted” from separate to marital, or from marital to separate.
Basically, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, the court will say it is a duck, even if it started out life as a goose.
How We Transmute Separate Property into Marital Property
This list is not exclusive, but here are some of the ways separate property can be transmuted.
If you deposit your inheritance check into a joint account, or purchase a home that is held as joint property with right of survivorship, that will be enough to transmute the asset.
If you purchase a car with the separate asset and the car title is in both names, it will be considered to have been transmuted.
If you deposit your inheritance check into a separate account but you later add your spouse’s name, making that account a joint account with right of survivorship, that too will transmute the property.
If you use the inheritance for the benefit of the marital couple, that too will transmute it. For example, transmutation may occur if the separate property is used for improvements to the communal home.
There are other ways that separate property can be co-mingled, but the above list is probably the most common ways of co-mingling.
Other Court Ordered Treatments of Separate Assets
It is also possible for a court to use separate assets in other ways during a divorce. The court is concerned with equitable distribution of the assets.
So if a child or spouse needs care and there are little or no marital assets to care for them, the court may choose to use a portion of your inheritance to fill that gap.
Free Consultation: Tulsa Divorce Attorney
The classification of property during a divorce can be a complicated matter. Hiring an experienced Tulsa divorce attorney is critical to make sure that the court is made aware of all the facts regarding Oklahoma divorce laws inheritance issues.
Call the Divorce Law Office of Tulsa today at 918-924-5526 to make an appointment for your free consultation.