According to Statista, there was one divorce for every 1,000 Massachusetts residents in 2021, and many of those divorces dealt with complicated asset division issues. Untangling shared financial matters can become complicated when you go through a divorce.
If you received an inheritance, you may wonder if your spouse can claim it in your divorce. It is a common concern, and understanding Massachusetts law can ease your worries.
Navigating Massachusetts divorce law
Massachusetts follows an equitable distribution system in a divorce. This approach means that the court divides marital property in a manner it deems fair but not necessarily equally. The court bases its decision on several factors, including the length of the marriage, the parties’ behavior during the marriage and each spouse’s income and future financial needs.
Distinguishing marital from separate property
State law defines marital property as all assets acquired during the marriage, regardless of who owns the title. In contrast, separate property comprises assets owned before the marriage, gifts one spouse received during the marriage or inheritances one spouse received either before or during the marriage.
Inheritance: marital or separate property?
Your inheritance generally qualifies as separate property, even if you received it during the marriage. This classification means it is usually safe from division in a divorce. However, there are exceptions to this rule. If you have mixed your inheritance with marital assets — for instance, depositing it into a joint bank account — the court might classify it as marital property.
Safeguarding your inheritance
Keeping your inheritance separate from marital assets can protect it. Avoid mixing inherited funds or property with marital assets, such as joint bank accounts or homes. Maintaining separate records of your inheritance can help shield it in the event of a divorce.
The challenges of dividing assets in a divorce can indeed be daunting, especially in the face of already stressful circumstances. But by keeping your inheritance separate, you can protect your assets. Being aware and proactive ensures your financial security and helps you transition smoothly through your divorce proceedings.