Quite often I hear people say that if they inherited a large sum of money the first thing they would do is pay off their mortgages and debt. Unfortunately many people are unaware of the potential issues that can arise from these actions later on in life if they are married.
Sometimes a will specifically leaves assets to the deceased person’s child – not jointly to the child and his or her spouse. This is a way to try and make sure that a bequest is not subject to “equalization” if a marriage breaks down. However, the deceased’s intention can be fustrated by a son or daughter who invests the inheritance in the matrimonial home or other family assets that are not excluded from equalization claims.
The co-mingling of inherited funds with other assets, so the inheritance can no longer be identified or traced, may also subject the money to equalization. Children can honour their parent’s intentions, and protect themselves in the event of a marriage breakdown, by making sure the inheritance remains separate from family assets, including the matrimonial home. Note that the legislation regarding property division upon marriage breakdown is specific to each province, so you should seek the advice of a legal expert when considering these issues.
Bill McElroy, BA, CFP, CIM
Published in the Business Link Media Newspaper. Volume 08/ Issue 09/ November 2013