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What happens to inheritances in divorce?

On Behalf of | Aug 22, 2022 | Divorce |

Inheritances can be items such as cash, real estate and personal property. Usually, someone leaves these things as a gift to a family member.

In a divorce, assets get divided equitably between spouses. The equitable division may or may not apply to inheritances.

Inheritances as marital property

While an inheritance may go to only one spouse, Massachusetts law presumes equitable division of all property in a divorce.  If the inheritance fits the following situations, it is easy to prove that the assets qualify as marital property:

  • When either spouse receives an inheritance during the marriage
  • If spouses receive an inheritance before marriage and deposit those funds into a shared bank account
  • When the non-owning spouses contribute to the improvement of an inheritance, such as real estate

The equitable division of assets means that both spouses get a fair portion of the property, regardless of whether it is an inheritance.

Inheritances stay separate property

Sometimes people think their inheritance should not go to their ex-spouses. Certain situations may make it easier for people to argue that an asset should remain individual property. Judges might consider the following circumstances:

  • The length of the marriage since a short marriage gives the non-owning spouses little time to get invested in the assets
  • If the owners managed the property without the assistance of their spouses
  • When the owners obtained the assets before the marriage or after the start of the divorce proceedings

Knowing what assets may qualify as separate property allows people the opportunity to retain their inheritances during a divorce.