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Protecting an inheritance with a prenuptial agreement

When Dallas couples are entering a marriage, they expect they will be sharing everything in common. So when a parent or older relative leaves something particularly valuable to one of the spouses as part of an inheritance, both spouses will typically use and enjoy it. However, should the marriage end in divorce, the partner with the inheritance may suddenly find him or herself fighting to hold on to that gift.

It doesn't matter whether the other spouse was named in the will or not, or even whether the person who left behind the inheritance ever knew or had anything to do with that spouse. In Texas, community property laws hold that any property acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage is, legally, the property of both spouses. Therefore, it must be considered during the property division stage of a divorce.

There is, however, a strategy available for Dallas residents with concerns about this scenario. A prenuptial agreement can specify, for example, that any property inherited during the marriage will stay with the one who inherited it -- basically, they each agree to give up their respective property rights -- if they decide to get divorced. This can cover inheritances ranging from a valuable collection of antiques to shares of a family business.

Readers who are already married and who didn't sign a prenuptial agreement are not without options. A postnuptial agreement can accomplish the same thing. A legal professional can help draft these documents and answer questions depending on the situation.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "How to Keep Your Inheritance in a Divorce," Neil Parmar, Nov. 9, 2014

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