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Are inheritances protected from property division?

On Behalf of | Sep 25, 2019 | Divorce

Massachusetts adults often receive a significant inheritance from their parents and naturally want to hold on to it through whatever challenges life presents. That is why when divorce looms on the horizon, people may worry about the fate of their inheritance. Whether you are married or are planning to get married, it is important to understand that barring special circumstances, inheritances are often protected from divorce division.

Commonly, the money or property a person inherits is not considered subject to equitable distribution. Since an inheritance is only meant for the person who receives it, the inheritance cannot be considered a marital asset. So if a divorce should happen, a judge will not consider dividing up the inheritance and the person who received it will retain it once the divorce is finalized.

However, per FindLaw, inheritance money can become subject to divorce division if a spouse mixes it with money that is jointly owned by the couple. This is known as comingling and may happen in a number of ways. A spouse may take money inherited from a parent and place it in a jointly owned account. Since the account is owned by both spouses, the inheritance is said to have lost its separate status and is now marital property.

Comingling can also occur if inheritance money is used to help improve existing marital property. The family residence may be in need of new wall siding, or the floor is old and damaged. Using inheritance assets to fix up the home can be considered a form of comingling. Inheritance money that is used to increase the value of marital property in any way can invite claims that it was used to benefit the couple and is not separate property any longer.

This article is written to educate readers on the topic of property division in divorce. Do not interpret this information as actionable legal advice for your situation.