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Inheritances usually are separate property in divorce, unless…

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2015 | Property Division

In Ohio, it is likely that the much, if not most, of the money you have in the bank or in investments will be considered marital property and subject to division if you ever divorce. Money earned or received during the marriage is generally considered to belong to both spouses.

However, exceptions exist. One such exemption may apply to inheritances. For many people, whether or not they get to keep a significant inheritance can have important consequences for their financial future after the divorce is final.

Upon receipt, an inheritance is usually considered to be separate property. But what the heir does with the gift could change its status to marital property, which would mean the heir’s spouse could have a claim to an equitable share of it during a subsequent divorce.

What actions remove an inheritance’s separate property status depends on each individual state’s laws. One common way to make an inheritance part of the marital property is to comingle it with other assets. For example, by putting it in a joint bank account shared by the heir and his or her spouse and using it for joint expenses, the heir has probably made the inheritance marital property. The key is whether the inheritance is used to benefit joint marital assets.

An exception sometimes exists. Some courts say that some of a comingled inheritance remains separate property — if the heir can show that the funds were never intended to be shared. In general, it is very difficult to convince the judge of this.

An inheritance is a way for the deceased person to show how important the heir was to him or her, and in many cases the decedent did not want the heir to have to share with a former husband or wife. Thus, it may be worth trying to protect your inheritance during your divorce.