You know that you and your ex are going to have to divide your assets when you get divorced. Maybe you have a joint bank account. Perhaps you purchased a home together. Maybe you bought shared vehicles or even a pet. These assets will all need to be divided either by mutual agreement or by a judge’s decree.
The treatment of one particular asset that can prove to be an especially complicated ordeal is an inheritance. If your parents or grandparents left one to you earlier in life, you probably think of it as yours alone. You would like the inheritance to stay in the family, and you don’t believe your ex has any right to it. However, your spouse likely also knows that you received that inheritance during your marriage and may say that they deserve to take a portion of it in the divorce. Is their position well-founded?
Has the inheritance been commingled?
Every case is unique, but it is generally true that an inheritance is classified as separate property for the purposes of property division. This means that you would not have to consider its value as part of your marital estate. It is an asset that only you are responsible for and not an asset whose value needs to be shared.
However, there are cases where an inheritance can become commingled with other funds. For instance, in the example above, you may have purchased a home together. Did you use the inheritance to make that purchase? Taking this course of action effectively turns an inheritance into a shared marital asset that you would now have to split with your ex. You cannot sell the home that you both own and then claim that you should keep all of the proceeds simply because the inheritance was used for the down payment or a portion of the total cost. With that said, your inheritance-related contribution to the home’s value may play a part in how much of the asset’s value you can reasonably claim is yours.
Another example of commingling occurs when an inheritance is stored in an account that both spouses use. If you shared the inheritance with your spouse during your marriage, it has been commingled and they may have a right to a portion of it as well.
Navigating property division challenges
Inheritance is just one aspect of the divorce process in which property division concerns can become exceedingly complicated. Make sure that you know about all of your options as you move forward so that a legal professional can help you to make truly informed choices about each of them in turn.