Generally speaking, an inheritance received by one spouse during a marriage is not subject to property distribution in divorce. Even though each state has its own laws regarding how it is viewed in divorce, typically inheritance received both before and during a marriage is not affected by equitable distribution.
Although most states agree that inheritance generally belongs to the person it was intended for, there is an exception to this practice. If an individual is a recipient of an inheritance and goes on to co-mingle funds with other marital assets, it may no longer be considered separate property. Even if the recipient spouse never intends on sharing their inheritance with their partner, depositing any portion of the inheritance in a joint bank account causes the inheritance to lose its immunity to property division.
If an inheritance is received prior to marriage, a great way to protect it is to include it in a prenuptial agreement. Prenuptial agreements are useful tools for individuals wishing to safeguard premarital assets. If the inheritance is received during a marriage, keeping it separate of marital funds or drafting a postnuptial agreement may also help protect the inheritance.
Property division is a complex and often exhausting portion of the divorce process. Keeping valuable assets such as an inheritance safe during divorce may be difficult but worth it in the long run. For individuals facing divorce and concerned with what property may be subject to division, speaking to an experienced divorce attorney can help. Regardless of if divorce is not in the immediate future, an attorney may be able to help draft an effective postnuptial agreement that offers additional protection to non-marital assets.