Property distribution has the potential to be a great source of contention in a divorce. Georgia is one of many states that adhere to an equitable distribution policy instead of a community property policy.
Courts split shared marital assets, usually anything that came into the couple’s possession after they married each other, based on fairness (not equality), but leave separate property, generally what each party came into the union with, with its original owner. While this may seem simple, there are factors that may introduce complexities into the division process. The status of inheritances, particularly inherited houses, is one that often confuses individuals.
Inheritance is usually separate property
Any money or other asset inherited solely by one spouse generally falls into the separate property category, removing it from distribution considerations. This applies whether the person inherited it before or after getting married. However, its status may change over time. Mingling may lead to inheritance becoming marital property
Certain actions, such as adding a person’s name to an account, may render a formerly separate inheritance marital property. For an inherited house, putting a spouse’s name on the deed removes its separate property status. Even if the inheritor does not put his or her husband’s or wife’s name on any documents, the court may still see a house as marital property if the non-inheritor contributed money or labor to it. For instance, a spouse paying for renovations or part of the mortgage may make the property a shared asset.
A house inherited during a marriage may be separate or marital property. Its status depends on how intertwined the couple’s property is and whether or not the non-heir spouse contributed to the asset.