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Getting a divorce can be tricky when two individuals are fighting over which assets are community property and which are considered separate property. While marital property has to be split during property division, separate property doesn't. A couple of tips can help people to safeguard an inheritance given to them when they get divorced in California.

One helpful way to protect one's inheritance is to keep paperwork showing that the inheritance indeed was intended just for oneself. If a person receives a certain gift during the marriage, there must be proof that the gift was a present to him or her alone. Otherwise, the property will legally have to be split between the two spouses.

A gift-tax return can especially be helpful to prove that only one person was supposed to get an inheritance. This is because the return features a particular section where a donor may specify the beneficiary and mention the amount that the beneficiary was provided. A letter that comes from the gift donor explaining the intended recipient of a certain amount of funds can also provide proof. It would be wise to keep this proof in a secure location, such as a safe deposit box or with a financial adviser.

Although people naturally don't like to think they will get divorced, it may happen when people least expect it. Being prepared and understanding the law may help a person to navigate the process in a way that will benefit him or her in the end. Both divorcing parties have the right to fight for their best interests when dealing with property division in California.

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

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