Although prenuptial agreements present a legal tool for establishing ownership of assets between married people in the event of a divorce, not all Pennsylvania couples with asset protection concerns have one. Other legal options, however, enable a person about to enter marriage to establish that certain assets, like real estate and businesses, are non-marital assets.
A person who owns a house or other property at the beginning of a marriage can maintain sole ownership of the real estate by not placing the spouse’s name on the deed. To enable a spouse to inherit the property, the owner should make a will bequeathing the property instead of making the spouse an immediate co-owner. A property that is inherited during a marriage could also be protected in this way. Additionally, to legally defend the property’s status as non-marital, the owner must take care to maintain the property with funds that are non-marital. This means that none of the spouse’s income goes to pay for upgrades, the mortgage, taxes, insurance and maintenance.
As for business assets, an owner can obtain a valuation for the business at the beginning of the marriage. This establishes a baseline non-marital value for the person’s business. Years later, if a divorce occurs and the business has appreciated in value, the business owner could argue that only the value that arose after the marriage can be considered a marital asset.
Even with these steps, property division issues in divorce cases often become complex. An attorney could advise a person about asset protection and record keeping strategies that could protect the property owner’s interests during a divorce. Additionally, an attorney might be able to represent the person during a divorce and advocate for the person’s possession of non-marital assets.