Working through the property division process in California can really be eye-opening, showing you just how the law views the money and assets you've obtained, and you may even run into some concepts you've never considered before. For many people, one of these concepts is the commingling of assets.
This is an important idea when looking at inheritance money, as it can determine how it has to be split up.
Essentially, commingling your assets just means that you've mixed the assets together in some way, perhaps by combining them in your bank account or spending them on joint property. When assets have been commingled with the other assets you and your spouse owned, it can be impossible to claim that they still belong to you alone.
For example, maybe your parents gave you $500,000 when they passed away. You want to claim that the money shouldn't be split between you and your spouse since it was intended for you specifically. You want it to stay in the family.
If you took the money and kept it in your own bank account, to which you alone had access, it hasn't been commingled and there is a basis for your claim. If you just dropped it into your joint bank account with your spouse or if the two of you used it to buy a house, then it's been commingled and your spouse can claim it as well. When money is shared like this, it's thought of essentially as joint property because both you and your spouse were "allowed" to use it while you were married.
Things like this may seem unfair, which underscores how important it is to know about all of the little details when splitting up. Ideally, you want to address these things in advance, but it's also important to know what legal options are out there after the fact.
Source: Daily Worth, "How To Protect Gifts And Inheritances In Divorce," Jeffrey Landers, accessed Aug. 18, 2016