WTOP Interview: How To Protect Inheritances For Future Generations


SHAWN ANDERSON: There is a lot to consider when giving your children or grandchildren an inheritance—from when and how to let them know they will be getting it to protecting your gift from becoming the property of a future ex-spouse or another family altogether.

HILLARY HOWARD: Let’s find out more with Nina Mitchell; Senior Wealth Advisor and Partner at Her Wealth from Bridgewater Wealth in Bethesda. Nina, good to see you!

NINA MITCHELL: Thank you, I’m happy to be here.

HILLARY HOWARD: So, if you’re planning to give someone an inheritance, what’s the best way to tell the person who’s going to be getting it?

NINA MITCHELL: Well, discussing future inheritances can be very emotional and complicated topics, so it’s hard for both the parents as the donor and the children as the recipient beneficiary. For many parents, this is actually the first time that they’re revealing their net worth to their adult children until naturally both parties have their own values and beliefs about money, so I’m not sure there’s really a best way to tell the next generation about inheritances other than you have several open and honest conversations about your intentions and your concerns. I will also say it’s important to have your financial advisor engage with your attorney and all family members, this will kind of help lessen the emotion and maybe just move the whole process along a little bit faster.

SHAWN ANDERSON: What are some of the things we can do to protect an inheritance, either one that we’re going to receive or the one we’re going to give to our heirs?

NINA MITCHELL: The simple answer is that your inheritance will always be your sole and separate property so long as you’ve maintained it separately. In other words, don’t commingle it and don’t retitle it in joint name. Unfortunately, separate property has a way of becoming marital property if it’s not properly handled and I can give you an example. If a couple buys a new house and a spouse uses previously inherited assets for the down payment and then they title the house in a deed in joint name, well that house has now become considered marital property and it could be subject to 50-50 division in the event of the divorce and the same holds true for any investments purchase with separate assets that later become title in both the husband-and-wife’s joint name for those important to keep the inherited property in a separate name.

HILLARY HOWARD: Is there any way a prenup could help somebody with inheritances?

NINA MITCHELL: Well, prenup can, yes and a prenup really allows you and your future spouse to agree before you get married who owns what and each person’s property rights upon divorce and death. So naturally, no one goes into a marriage wishing for a divorce, but this is very much like an added asset protection just in case things go wrong. Prenups can save time and money and preserve the inheritance, but they have to be entered into voluntarily with each party and you also have to have full and fair financial disclosure. I can give you several benefits of a prenup very simply by agreeing to keep your property separate and non-marital, you won’t have to prove in court what was or wasn’t your property before the marriage and a prenup can also help limit your responsibility for your future spouse’s death by agreeing in advance that certain debts will be satisfied by the separate assets and not through marital assets.

SHAWN ANDERSON: A lot of important info there. Thanks so much Nina.

NINA MITCHELL: You’re welcome.

SHAWN ANDERSON: Nina Mitchell with Bridgewater Wealth in Bethesda, for more go to WTOP.com, search Her Wealth.