When you go through the process of divorce, you may question whether you or your spouse can claim rights to the inheritance funds that either of you have acquired during your marriage.
Inheritance during Marriage
In general, inheritances are not subject to equitable distribution, as these are not considered marital property by law. These are regarded as separate property that belong to the spouse who obtained them. As such, these cannot be distributed between the spouses in a divorce.
State laws determine the treatment of inheritances once they are shared, however. Divorce lawyers in Long Island noted that in New York, wherein equitable distribution of property is followed, the courts will determine whether a spouse’s inheritance during marriage will be divided during the proceedings.
There are also other cases wherein inheritance loses its immunity, such as if the inheritor deposited it into a joint bank account and used it for joint marital expenses.
Another is if the inheritor used it to make improvements to the primary marital residence.
Under these cases, comingling is a key factor. If the inheritor used their inheritance, which is a separate property, as a community or marital property, the courts can divide it upon divorce.
Inheritance before Marriage
It’s common for spouses to enter marriages with prior wealth, whether by inheritance or otherwise.
In NY, courts allow each spouse to keep each of their separate properties, except to the extent that the other party has contributed to increase their value. With that said, the inheritor can keep their inheritance, except for the amount that their spouse has added to it.
If the inheritor used the inheritance as marital property, however, it will lose its immunity, as stated before.
What you do with your inheritance after you received it will determine its fate during your divorce. If you want to know more about the division or non-division of inheritances upon separation, consult a local divorce lawyer.