Inheritance is an issue that comes up in some divorces. That is, one spouse came into a sizable inheritance and assumed it was his or hers to keep no matter what. Then it surprises the spouse in a bad way during divorce proceedings to learn that the other spouse has a claim to the inheritance.
The reality is that if you have an inheritance, it can take some work to ensure it remains nonmarital property, but it is possible.
When inheritances become marital property
Marital property is “up for grabs” by both spouses in divorce, and this can happen with one spouse’s inheritance in several ways. For example, say Spouse A inherited $100,000 and put the money into a joint bank account that has Spouse B’s name on it. Spouse B has access to the money and can use it at any time. This inheritance has likely become marital property.
Similarly, say that one spouse used $100,000 instead to buy a house for both spouses and their shared children to live in, and it has both spouses’ names on the title. In such a case, it can be difficult to convince anyone that the house, even though the one spouse funded it with an inheritance, is not marital property.
Keeping inheritances as nonmarital property
When you share a life with someone, it can be difficult to keep your inheritance separate. In fact, many people choose to go ahead and commingle their inheritances, knowing that it could prove troublesome down the road in divorce. Often, they do not regret the decision, as it made life easier for them and their families at the time.
However, if you prefer to safeguard your inheritance, the top thing to remember is that it needs to maintain separateness. For example, in the case of money, you can put it in a bank account that has only your name on it, and it is an account in which you never put marital funds.