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What happens to an inheritance?

One of the most challenging aspect of property division in a divorce is figuring out what is marital property and what is individual property. Because martial property is subject to the equitable division of the assets and individual property is not, many people try to claim assets as theirs and only theirs when really they must be considered part of the martial assets.

One exception to this is inheritances. In general, an inheritance is considered individual property. However, this is only true if the inheritance was only to go to one person in the relationship. If your great-grandfather left property to both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it may be deemed marital property instead.

Another way that an inheritance can end up as marital property is how the money is spent or the property is used during the marriage. For example, if your uncle leaves you a large sum of money, but you deposit it into your joint bank account and both of you access and use the funds, your ex-spouse could have reasonable grounds to claim that the monies were marital property based on how they were used.

While the best way to avoid these gray areas is to ensure that you always keep an inheritance from the martial funds during the relationship, most people don't think about what would happen in a divorce until the papers are filed. If your divorce settlement and property division process may include an inheritance received by one or both parties during the course of the marriage, a family law attorney can help you better understand how this may be dealt with in the courts.

Source: FindLaw, "Inheritance and Divorce," accessed April 08, 2016

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