Division of House Inherited Before Marriage?

“I inherited a house from my parents before my marriage. I just got served with a divorce. My spouse is asking that my parents’ house be sold and that the proceeds be divided equally between us. My spouse isn’t entitled to one red cent from my parents’ house, right?”

It’s tempting to agree with the quote above, but it may be premature. In truth, there isn’t enough information to tell yet.

After some probing, the heir adds that the house has served as the marital residence throughout the marriage and that the other spouse’s claim is especially upsetting to the heir because the house has appreciated on the order of 100% during the marriage.

With that, it is indeed possible that the spouse will have some legal claim to the house. But it’s not yet time to stop probing. Additional facts may influence the final word here greatly.

For example, suppose the spouse was handy and did some work on the house? Perhaps the spouse renovated the kitchen and bathroom. Perhaps the spouse built on a room. Maybe the spouse even built an outdoor jacuzzi.

Further, it turns out that other homes in the area similar to the house in its pre-renovation state have only appreciated on the order of 25% percent rather than the 100% that this house has appreciated.

Under Florida law, it’s starting to sound like the spouse may have good reason to claim that at least a part of the house has become marital property and that, other things being relatively equal, the spouse is entitled to some portion of the value of the house.

(Parenthetically, if the heir had wanted to avoid the spouse having any possible claim on the house in the event of a divorce and had consulted a lawyer, the heir would have learned that several different options chosen at the outset could have completely protected the house. But the die are cast now.)

Still, that doesn’t mean that the house will have to be sold now. Or that the division of the house will have to be equal.

It just means that the spouse may be entitled to some portion of the house’s value at some point in time. The ultimate outcome in a case like this will depends on careful analysis of the couple’s assets and possibly non-financial dynamics of the marriage as well.

Posted in Uncategorized