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A look at how an inheritance is treated during a divorce

Massachusetts couples may be interested in information regarding the splitting of inheritances during a divorce. The outcome could depend on how the money is treated when received.

When a marriage ends, there are often questions about whether certain property is included in the division between the former spouses. One type of property that may be contentious is an inheritance received by one spouse during the marriage. An inheritance received before or after the marriage is generally not considered marital property, so this is usually not divided. Similarly, when an inheritance is received during a marriage by only one spouse, this usually not counted as marital property.

When the inheritance is received and the funds are kept separate from other marital property, it is usually safe. This means that the money is deposited in a separate bank account than the rest of the money owned by the former couple. If the inheritor commingles the inheritance with the rest of the couple's money, though, this could make it part of the former couple's marital property. This, in turn, would be part of the property division phase of the divorce. This could apply to both inheritances received during the marriage and outside of the marriage. It may be possible to show that the funds were never meant to be mixed, but the bar for proving this in court can be quite high.

Understanding the proper way to handle inheritance funds, real estate holdings and other property in a high net-worth divorce can be difficult without the advice of an attorney. A family law attorney can assist a client in the negotiation of a comprehensive settlement agreement that will include property division as well as other matters.

Source: Findlaw, "Inheritance and Divorce ", December 09, 2014

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