When two people get divorced, one of the most important things they have to do is to divide the assets that they own. For many people, an inheritance is not just one of those assets, but perhaps one of the most valuable ones that they possess. Perhaps their own parents passed away while they were married, and one person was gifted this inheritance.
If this couple decides to end their marriage, who gets to keep the inheritance? Does it just belong to the person to whom it was initially given, keeping the money in their family? Or does their ex have any ability to claim that they should get a portion of that inheritance because they received it when they were still a married couple?
Commingling an inheritance
There are a few things to consider here, one of which is whether the inheritance was given to both people or just to one individual. For instance, if a check was written with both people’s names on it, then it is a shared gift that both parties have a claim to. If it was only given to one person, then odds are that it still counts as a separate gift or a separate asset. It does not have to be divided during divorce because the only person who had any ownership rights is the person that received it initially. They simply keep it when the marriage ends.
The exception to this general rule comes into play when an inheritance gets commingled or mixed during the marriage. It could be combined with other funds, perhaps by being invested in a shared stock portfolio or stored in a shared bank account. Commingling an inheritance means that both people have access to it, and they likely both have a right to it after the divorce. It becomes a marital asset to be divided, which wouldn’t be true if it had just been kept separate the entire time.
As can be seen, there are some major financial questions that tend to arise during a divorce. Those who are involved need to make sure they know exactly what options they have. This is one of the main reasons why seeking legal guidance proactively is so important.