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How Do I Handle Inheritance During Divorce?

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A judge may consider a person's inheritance in determining whether or not he or she should pay alimony.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 18 August 2014
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The manner in which you have to handle an inheritance during divorce will likely depend on where you live. Each jurisdiction may have differing laws when it comes to dealing with inheritance and divorce. In general, however, inheritance money or property that was kept separate during a marriage is usually kept separate during divorce. This means your spouse is unlikely to be entitled to your inheritance during divorce. If you kept the money in a joint account or shared the inheritance with your spouse in some other manner, however, he may have a legal right to a share of it.

In many jurisdictions, an inheritance is considered a separate asset rather than a marital asset; you probably won't be required to share your inheritance in divorce as long as you didn’t share it during the marriage. It is important to keep in mind, however, that there are many things that may be considered sharing. For example, if you inherit a home and your spouse helps with its upkeep, this may be considered sharing.

Your inheritance also may become a marital asset if you deposit it into a joint bank account or use it to pay expenses for the marital home. You may even have to share a portion of your inheritance if you use some of it to fund a family vacation. If your spouse has helped to pay your inheritance taxes, this may entitle him to a share as well.

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While it is possible to keep an inheritance separate during a divorce, it may still be considered when it comes to alimony payments. A judge may consider your inheritance in determining whether you should pay alimony and how much should be ordered. Likewise, depending on the jurisdiction, it may be considered in setting child support.

Since laws regarding inheritance during divorce may vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, you may do well to check the laws that govern your area before initiating a divorce. In fact, you may decide to research these laws when you learn that you will receive an inheritance, even if your marriage is strong. This is because divorce is a possibility, even in the marriages that seem the most stable. If you are sure you won’t want to share you inheritance with your spouse in the event of a split, you may want to take steps to keep it separate throughout your entire marriage.

You may benefit from speaking with a lawyer about dealing with an inheritance during divorce. Inheritance and divorce laws can be complex and difficult to interpret. If you get sound legal advice, you may feel more confident in how things will be handled in a divorce proceeding.

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Discuss this Article

anon338161
Post 3

What if you are not divorced and not legally separated, but were separated for three years and stand to receive an inheritance. Would the spouse be entitled to a portion of the inheritance?

oasis11
Post 2

@GrrenWeaver - I agree and I have to say that as long as the inheritance is kept separate it really can’t be taken away or split up. I think that many trusts are set up for those that inherit money to receive it during certain milestone years so that they won’t have problems with spending the money too fast or having a spouse use it up.

My mother in law has a trust like this set up by her father. She received an inheritance when she was 40, 50, and 60 years old. He figured that this would allow her an opportunity to have the money later in life when she was with a husband that she was sure she would spend the rest of her life with. She was divorced once during that time so this may have been a good idea after all.

GreenWeaver
Post 1

I don’t think that an inheritance affects the amount of child support because the noncustodial parent is responsible for the care of the child as well and the inheritance has nothing to do with it.

For example, if the mother receives a sizeable inheritance and she is also the custodial parent, the father is still obligated to pay child support regardless of the mother’s assets. However, if the mother of the child was seeking alimony then this legal question has a different outcome because if the amount of money that she inherits is sufficient for her to live on then there probably would not be alimony.

Getting a divorce is not easy and the divorce process will often challenge the reason for divorce itself. I think that it always a good idea to seek divorce advice from a divorce lawyer before you actual file for divorce because it will give you a picture of what to expect. It will also help you decide if you should get a legal separation vs a divorce.

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