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Does a spouse have claim to an inheritance in divorce?

Most people say the worst part of getting a divorce is dividing assets and debts. Because of heightened emotions and hurt feelings, most people are typically worried about how much their spouse will get and whether they are getting a fair deal or not.

But for people with unique assets, like inheritance money, concern can go beyond how much their spouse will get, changing into concern over whether their spouse will have a claim to those assets at all. 

For individuals who have received a considerably large inheritance from a family member of loved one and are now facing divorce, the prospect of turning it over to be divided equitably is enough to make their stomach turn. But does a spouse have claim to an inheritance in divorce? Let's take a look.

Inheritance before marriage

If an inheritance was received before the marriage began, it will most likely be considered separate property and is unlikely to get divided equitably between you and your spouse. There are exceptions to this rule, though.

If you comingle your inheritance with marital funds or use the inheritance to buy marital property, then it could lose its separate status, meaning it could qualify as marital property that is then subject to equitable distribution rules.

Inheritance after marriage

Even though most assets received during marriage are considered marital property, an inheritance received after marriage may still be considered separate property depending on the circumstances. An example would be if the decedent left the inheritance to you in their will without naming your spouse as an additional recipient.

Of course, if you comingle your inheritance with marital assets, its status may change from separate to marital, causing it to be subject to division during divorce proceedings.

Getting legal help

As a FindLaw article on the subject of inheritance and divorce illustrates, how you handle and use an inheritance during the course of marriage has a major impact on its status during property division. It's best to have an experienced family law attorney review your specific situation because they can not only explain what will most likely happen to your inheritance during divorce proceedings, the can help you through the process as well.

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