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How will divorce affect your inheritance?

On Behalf of | Apr 17, 2024 | Family Law

The property you inherited from your parents could represent your family’s legacy. It may seem like a plot of land to others, but it might be a piece of your family’s history, passed down through generations. Understandably, it holds not only financial but also sentimental value. If you are considering divorce, you might wonder if your former spouse could be entitled to a part of your inheritance.

Property division in a divorce

In a divorce, there are two categories under which all the property you and your spouse own will fall: marital and separate. Marital property includes assets and debts acquired by either spouse during the marriage. Separate property, on the other hand, belongs to one spouse. Separate property generally consists of the following:

  • Gifts
  • Inheritances
  • Property one spouse owned before the marriage

In Eastern North Dakota and Western Minnesota, courts follow equitable distribution rules. Therefore, a judge will divide marital property fairly, though not always equally, based on several factors.

The courts usually consider an inheritance you received before or during your marriage as separate property. As such, it would typically remain yours after the divorce. However, exceptions exist, especially if you intentionally or unintentionally commingled your inheritance with marital assets.

Protecting your inheritance from a divorce

Your goal is to keep your inheritance in your hands post-divorce. Here are some strategies you can employ:

  • Keep it separate: Avoid mixing your inheritance with marital assets. This means not depositing it into joint accounts or using it to fund joint purchases.
  • Document everything: Keep detailed records and documentation showing the inheritance was meant for you alone.
  • Consider a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement: These legal contracts can outline how assets will be divided in case of divorce, allowing you to protect specific items like an inherited family property.
  • Set up a trust: You can also explore setting up a trust fund to hold your inheritance, which creates a legal barrier, preventing your spouse from claiming ownership over the assets in the trust.
  • Consult with an attorney: A family law attorney can help you ensure your inheritance remains yours despite a divorce.

Divorce can significantly impact your inheritance, but there are strategies to protect your family’s legacy. With careful planning, you can keep the property you inherited intact and pass it on to the next generation.