Law Offices of Lisa Stern
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Is an inheritance divided in a divorce?

Property division during a divorce in Michigan is never an easy task, but it becomes even more difficult if either you or your spouse are the recipient of an inheritance. Generally speaking, the court regards an inheritance as separate property belonging solely to the individual named in the will. As is often the case, however, exceptions can apply. It depends partly on when you inherited the assets, i.e., before or during the marriage, and partly on what you did with your inheritance after receiving it. 

According to FindLaw, every state has different laws that govern whether or not your inheritance counts as marital property if you received it before the marriage. If you inherited while married, however, the laws are less ambiguous in stating that your inheritance is generally separate property, and therefore not subject to property division. 

Regardless of when you inherited, however, the assets you receive may become marital property if you used them in a way to benefit joint marital assets or if you deposited them in a shared account. In other words, if you did not keep your inheritance separate from the assets that you shared jointly with your spouse, it may be subject to property division during your divorce. The legal term for this is commingling. 

Another example of commingling is using your inheritance in a way that benefits both spouses, such as making improvements to the shared home. If you are not yet married, you may be able to protect your inheritance, including bequests that you may receive in the future, with a premarital agreement. If you are already married, you may be able to enter into a postnuptial agreement that may provide you some protection. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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