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Can your spouse ask for a share of your inheritance in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Mar 17, 2022 | Divorce |

Money can have a major influence on modern divorces. Some people file for divorce to protect themselves from their spouse’s financial bad habits. Other people may decide to file for divorce because they want to lay claim to something that was not theirs originally.

When you receive a large inheritance, it can improve your quality of life and affect everyone in your family positively. Your spouse will undoubtedly reap the benefits of the inheritance as you invest in your shared home, tackle household debts and even pay for family vacations.

Sadly, for some people, secondhand access to an inheritance isn’t enough. They may think that by divorcing you, they can ask for half of your inheritance. The temptation of those resources could be the deciding factor for someone whose commitment to their marriage was already declining. Is your inherited property at risk in a Pennsylvania divorce?

Inherited property is separate

The person who left the inheritance may have planned for this exact scenario. They may have transferred the assets into a trust to limit how much you can access and prevent the loss of your inheritance if you divorce. If someone simply left you property, that inheritance is still your separate property, at least at first.

The laws in Pennsylvania create an equitable distribution rule for when a couple divorces. The judge dividing their property should look into the household circumstances and then divide everything in a way that seems reasonable and fair. Only your marital property gets split between you and your spouse, and your inheritance is not marital property.

State law designates property received by inheritance and as gifts as your separate property when you divorce, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to share it with your spouse. However, it is common for people to make the mistake of commingling their inheritance with marital property.

What is commingling?

If you deposit an inheritance into a shared bank account, add your spouse to ownership paperwork or otherwise give them control over your inheritance, they could claim that it became marital property through your commingling. In that situation, they could potentially ask the courts to receive some of your inheritance in the property division decree.

Learning about the rules that apply to property division when couples divorce in Pennsylvania can help you protect your most valuable assets and plan for the future.