How Is Inheritance Divided in a Divorce?

If you have inherited property or other assets of significant value, you must take the necessary steps to ensure that your inheritance is protected if you and your spouse get divorced. While all marital property is subject to the equitable distribution rule in New Jersey, inheritances are generally considered separate property, meaning they are not subject to division. However, exceptions to this rule could entitle your spouse to a portion of your inheritance during divorce.

What Is an Inheritance?

An inheritance is any property or asset left to you by the previous owner after death. This can be a house, car, jewelry, antiques, stocks, bonds, and other valuable assets. In most cases, the property is inherited by an older relative, like a parent or a grandparent, who passes away and leaves the property to you in their will.

If the property owner did not have a will, you may receive the inheritance through intestate, where the deceased’s estate is distributed based on state law. 

Is My Inheritance Considered Marital or Separate Property?

New Jersey divorce law generally recognizes an inheritance as separate property. That means your inheritance may not be subject to the equitable distribution of marital property. However, there are situations where your inheritance may be considered marital property and subject to the division of property.

One of the most common ways an inheritance can be considered marital property is if funds from the inheritance are commingled with marital property. Separate property – including inheritances – can be commingled in several ways. For example, if your inheritance money is deposited into a joint bank account and used for mortgage payments or other household expenses, the money may be considered commingled and subject to the equitable property division during the divorce process.

What Steps Can I Take to Protect My Inheritance?

You can take several proactive steps to try to protect your inheritance. Avoid using funds from your inheritance to pay for shared expenses, like mortgage payments, home repairs, and car payments. Keep those funds in a separate account in your name only. Another highly recommended step to protect your inheritance is to draft and sign a prenuptial agreement. There are rules governing the validity of a prenuptial agreement, so it is recommended that you consult with an experienced divorce lawyer. You can also do a postnuptial agreement.

Woodbridge Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Protect Clients’ Inheritances During the Divorce Process

If you are going through a divorce and you have an inheritance that you want to be protected, do not hesitate to contact our Woodbridge divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Our team of experienced and dedicated divorce lawyers can guide you through every step of the process, determine whether any portion of your inheritance is considered marital property, and take every step necessary to protect it. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, and Monmouth County.