Can my spouse get my inheritance in divorce?

During a divorce,  I am often asked the question whether under the law, inheritance funds will be divided between the divorcing spouses. My client may have had a family member, or someone else, who has passed away and left them an inheritance  This inheritance could be in the form of money or property. The client fears that if he or she gets a divorce, their spouse will be entitled to a percentage of their inheritance pursuant to the equitable distribution laws of New York State.

The answer is that under New York State law, inheritances are separate property. To illustrate, Joe and Sally are going through a divorce. Joe’s father leaves him $100,000.00. That money would be Joe’s separate property as long as Joe has never commingled the funds with marital money or somehow transmuted it to marital property. This means that at all times the funds have been kept in a separate bank account or other financial vehicle that has only Joe’s name on it. No other earnings or proceeds from any other property, unless they are part of Joe’s inheritance, can ever be deposited into the account.

Putting inheritance funds into a separate account with only the heir’s name on it, will insure that the inheritance remains the separate property of that spouse. Following these steps will insure that the inheritance remains the separate property of the inheriting spouse only. Therefore, under the equitable distribution laws of New York State, the non-inheriting spouse will not be entitled to any part of the funds in a divorce.

If you require experienced legal representation for divorce and family law matters, contact the Law Offices of Mark S. Paige, P.C. today to schedule a consultation.