Another example: If a husband inherits some stock from his mother during the marriage and he wants to keep it as non-marital property, he should open his own investment account and should not use the account for any investments that he and his wife own together. If a husband or wife decides to use some non-marital funds for a common purpose, such as purchasing a home in joint tenancy, that money normally will become marital property. The non-marital property will be viewed by the courts of most states as a gift to the marriage.
Similarly, if a wife or husband takes non-marital funds and places them in a joint checking account, the funds generally will become marital property. In some states, the presumption that funds placed in a joint account are marital property can be overcome by specific proof that the spouse depositing the funds did not intend to have the funds used for a marital purpose. Nonetheless, if a husband or wife does not want non-marital property converted into marital property, it is best to keep the non-marital property separate. Always.
Property distribution laws have many intricacies and variations between states; understanding them usually requires a lawyer’s help. For example, in many states, the increase in value of non-marital property (such as an investment account or a house that is held in the name of only one party) also would be non-marital property. In some states, however, the increase in value would be marital property.