For years, you felt like you were trapped in your marriage. The problem was strictly financial. You knew that you did not earn enough money to make ends meet on your own. Only by having two incomes could you provide for yourself, so you didn’t feel that you had any option to get a divorce – even though you wanted to.
However, your parents recently left you a large inheritance. It’s going to be enough money for you to support yourself, so you now want to move forward with the divorce. Your spouse claims, though, that you have to split the inheritance with them as you divide up your marital assets. Is this true?
An inheritance is usually a separate asset
In many cases, this is not true because the courts generally classify inheritance as a separate asset. Your parents intended to leave the money to you and you alone. It is a gift, but not one that was given to the two of you as a couple, and it’s not an asset that you purchased together. You should not have to divide it. That being said, an inheritance isn’t always a separate asset. For example, if your parents did set it up in a way that gives the asset to both you and your spouse – maybe both of you were named on the check or the financial account, for instance – then this gift may be considered part of your marital estate.
Another issue could arise if the inheritance has been commingled over time. Commingling means sharing that asset with your spouse or mixing it with other assets that you own. If you put the money into your joint bank account or used it to pay shared bills, this could count as commingling it. This is also true if you bought shared assets, like a car or a house, using that money. If the inheritance has been commingled, this may turn it into a marital asset. You would then be obligated to divide it with your spouse, as they claim. But if you have never commingled it, then it may still be a separate asset, and you’ll get to keep the entire value when you get divorced.
Divorce can be complicated
The financial side of a divorce can be quite complex. If you are involved in a contentious divorce case, it’s critical to understand exactly what legal steps to take to safeguard your rights and interests. Seeking legal guidance sooner rather than later, therefore, is wise.