Protecting personal property is a priority for most people in Massachusetts, and getting married usually does not change those feelings. Younger adults are increasingly turning to prenuptial agreements to define which property is separate and which is marital, which is usually very effective and helpful during divorce. However, some couples are taking a less conventional approach to protecting separate property, which is unfortunately much less effective than they think.
Separate bank accounts in marriage is becoming more popular among millennials. According to Bank of America, married millennials are maintaining separate bank accounts at more than twice the rate of the baby boomer and Gen X generations. Some couples may have simply never gotten around to combining accounts because of how easy it is to instantly transfer money now. Others believe that keeping separate accounts will protect their respective finances in the event of a divorce. It does not.
In the absence of a prenuptial agreement that states otherwise, the assets that a couple acquire during their marriage — including money — are considered jointly owned. It does not matter whether a person’s income went into his or her personal account, it is still marital property and must be divided. Having multiple separate accounts may even make it more difficult to divide those marital assets since finances are not only spread out but may also contain funds from before the marriage. Money deposited into an account prior to marriage is usually still considered separate property.
Maintaining separate bank accounts and keeping assets separate is not an effective safeguard for personal property. Even things like savings accounts, retirement funds and debts that are only in one person’s name can still be considered marital property if acquired during the course of the marriage. For most Massachusetts couples, pre- or post-nuptial agreements are the most effective way to protect separate property during divorce.