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Can your spouse take your inheritance in a divorce?

On Behalf of | May 28, 2024 | Firm News |

When a couple decides to part ways through divorce, property division is often the most pressing concern. People who received a valuable inheritance during their marriage may worry about the fate of that inheritance. What happens to property that one spouse inherited during the marriage?

Is an inheritance marital property?

Typically, in Pennsylvania, the court views your inheritance as separate property. This means if you receive an inheritance, you are the sole owner of that property and it remains yours during a divorce.

However, this question becomes more complex if the inheritance has become commingled or mixed with marital assets. For example, if you inherit money and deposit it into a joint bank account used for everyday expenses, this inheritance might be treated as marital property. It can be challenging to designate an inheritance as separate property in a divorce once commingling occurs.

What if the inheritance includes real estate?

Inheritances that consist of property, such as a house or land, are subject to similar rules. If you inherit property and keep it solely in your name, not using marital funds for maintenance or improvements, it generally remains your separate property.

However, just as you might commingle inherited money, marital assets can become mixed with inherited real estate. For example, if you use marital funds for renovations, mortgage payments, or maintenance, your spouse may have a claim on a portion of the property’s value.

Can you protect your inheritance?

One way that people may protect their inheritance is through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. These agreements can specify what happens to each spouse’s assets, including any inheritance received either before or during the marriage, should the marriage end.

Consulting an attorney can also be crucial in protecting your inheritance in a divorce. They can devise strategies to ensure the court classifies your inheritance as separate property. They can also trace any mixed assets back to their original source. Getting legal advice early in the divorce process is essential to protect your rights.

Divorce and inheritance laws can be complex. However, with the right guidance and careful consideration, you can ensure that your inheritance remains protected in the event of a divorce.