Here Are Three Ways to Manage an Inheritance

Let’s start with the numbers: 10 and 1,000,000,000,000.  

Over this decade,  $1 trillion is expected to change hands through inheritance.  The majority of that will end up in the hands of Baby Boomers.  And while one study found that the average inheritance was only $50,000, there will be a lot of inheritances in the $1 million plus range.   

That is serious money, folks. If you live in Texas and one of the fortunate who end up receiving this gift, there are several things you should keep in mind.

1. Written Marital Agreement

First, Texas is a community property state. If you are married, then your inheritance is separate property. It will stay separate property so long as you do not commingle it with community funds or gift it to your spouse. This is much harder to do than it looks. 

The obvious solution is for you and your spouse to enter into a written marital agreement that spells out that your inheritance, together with any income from it, remains your separate property.  You then have to be careful that you truly keep it segregated from your community property.

2. Settle an Estate with A Trust

If your spouse is not willing to enter into a marital agreement, then you need to go to plan B. Talk to an attorney about what assets in your inheritance can safely be put into a trust.  If you go this route, then you should still take precautions to track income and keep it separate.

3. Put Your Inheritance into Your Assets

Plan C is to put your inheritance into assets held in only your name, and segregate the income from them. This is important because income from separate property is considered community property.

Types of Assets

The second tip is about the over-all management of the inheritance. You should analyze it by type of asset. IRAs and other qualified funds take very special handling to ensure that you do not get hit with taxes or penalties. If you immediately cash out your inherited traditional IRA, then you are going to lose a good chunk of it in taxes. Similarly, if you fail to take the mandatory distribution of a Roth IRA, you are going to have to pay a steep penalty.

Inherited Real Estate

Inherited real estate poses its own problems. If you by chance inherited only a portion of a piece of real property, then you will have to work with the other owners regarding use, maintenance and/or sale. You may even have to file a partition suit to force a sale if your co-owners are not cooperative. Real estate could also be polluted, subject to a mortgage, or be encumbered with back taxes.

Inherited Live Assets

Then there are the live assets: dogs, cats, horses and such. You will need to take possession and decide if you are keeping, selling, or putting down.  

Some assets are just a pain to deal with. These include timeshares, partnership or entity interests that do not have a buy-sell agreement, and Title II weapons.   

Disclaimer of Inheritance

The third tip is to remember the disclaimer. This is a procedure where you just refuse to take part or all of an inheritance.

Talk to Hammerle Finley or Your Lawyer

Final tip: Talk to your lawyer, CPA and financial advisor. Incorporate your inheritance into your own estate plan. Don’t blow it in the first 2 years.

Virginia Hammerle is a Texas attorney whose practice includes estate planningguardianship and probate. Sign up for her newsletter at Contact Hammerle Finley Law Firm to schedule a consultation at