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How Marriage Affects Ownership and Inheritance

Marriage ceremonies, rules, and roles differ from one society to another. This is evident when you compare serious Congolese weddings to rowdy Lebanese celebrations. But despite the cultural distinctions, marriage itself is universal as a social institution. And with all other socially accepted institutions in this day and age, marital legalities and divorce and family law govern the practice. Each comes with their own benefits and complications.

Property and Inheritance Before Getting Married

Before one says “I do,” ownership, proprietorship, and any possession of different property types are straightforward. The Ownership Rights in Real Property clearly states what your rights are when you own certain properties. One has sole discretion over the acquisition, operation, lease, transfer, and/or any use of such properties. And if one so desires, one may terminate such ownership. Thus, the owner may use and enjoy their properties as long as it is within the law. However, this state of ownership can alter greatly upon the change of one’s marital status.

Property and Inheritance After Getting Married

After getting married, one may not always have sole discretion over any bought properties or investments. It can all depend on what state you live in. In common law property states, any spouse completely owns whatever property they acquire, unless the deed or title contains both spouses’ names.

Marital property states, on the other hand, dictate that certain possessions belong to both spouses. This includes income, property bought with the income, and any debts accrued during the partnership. You and your marital partner are co-owners, except for certain terms established when a prenuptial agreement is put into place. The marriage, therefore, becomes a conjugal partnership of gains. Should a couple divorce, the shared or marital property gained while married will then be equally divided between the two spouses by default.

There are also some things that can remain separate. Any assets acquired and income generated before the marriage will be considered separate property. Gratuitous titles such as awards, gifts, and inheritances are also separate during the marriage. Even if one acquires an inheritance while one is married, that inheritance will be considered separate property. This means it is the sole property of the spouse that acquired the inheritance. Whether the inheritance is estate, money, and business, as long as it is under the name of one spouse, it is therefore fully theirs and theirs alone. If ever the other spouse decides to meddle with the inheritance affairs, legal actions may be put into place.

Celebrity couples such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes illustrate how marriage can greatly affect ownership and inheritance. Their divorces ended in messy settlements that involved their children, money, and properties. The seven marriages of Elizabeth Taylor, two of which were to the same Richard Burton, are a paragon for messy settlements. Gifts of diamonds, hundreds of thousands in alimony, and one legendary prenup are just the tip of the iceberg. To date, her marriage to Larry Fortensky is still one of the biggest prenup payments in history. Upon the absolution of their five- year Marriage, Larry Fortensky received a whopping one million dollars.

Protecting Your Assets When You Get Married

Family Lawyer

Like most institutions worth entering, marriage is grand and complex, especially once you throw inheritance and ownership into the mix. But you can easily uncomplicate things and protect yourself with a sound knowledge of marital law. Laws like the Uniform Probate Code, for example, protect the inheritance of descendants’ estates even during the marriage. Knowing the legalities will truly help in the long run, especially considering that 40% to 50% of marriages in the U.S. alone end in divorce.

In addition to gaining legal knowledge, looking into and getting prenuptial agreements is also a safe bet. It has actually gained popularity in recent years, with 62% of couples seeking prenups before marriage. Prenups document each spouse’s separate properties for protection. These agreements also assign debts such as mortgages, school loans, and credit cards to the appropriate spouse to prevent sharing debt liability between spouses. All things considered, getting a prenup can prevent possible conflicts even when marriages don’t end in divorce.

With all that being said, marriage is a life-changer. You might end up spending money, earning debt, and sharing inheritance without you even being aware of it. It is best to look into the different laws and consider prenuptial arrangements that can protect you. Simply discussing such matters with your future spouse may also help. Regardless of what steps you take, you must make sure to safeguard yourself, your property, your inheritance, and, most importantly, your marriage.

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