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Can your spouse lay claim to your inheritance in your divorce?

On Behalf of | Dec 15, 2021 | Divorce |

When your grandmother or your parents left you a sizable inheritance, they wanted to provide for your future stability. Unfortunately, your ex could undermine that legacy by trying to claim your inheritance in an upcoming New York divorce.

The more substantial your inheritance was, the more likely it is that your spouse feels entitled to that property. Do you have to worry about your ex claiming part of your inheritance in a litigated New York divorce?

Inherited assets are typically separate property

When you inherit a bank account, a vehicle or a piece of real estate from a family member, it belongs to you and does not automatically become the property of your spouse just because of your marriage.

New York law identifies inheritances as separate property. Unfortunately, your ex might still try to ask for some of your inheritance. They might try to claim that you treated it as marital property. What are some of the ways you could make your inheritance vulnerable to claims by your spouse?

By giving them access to or control over the inheritance

So long as you maintain your inherited assets separately from marital property, your ex often won’t have grounds to claim your inherited assets. However, if you treat those assets like marital property, then your spouse could ask the courts to treat your inheritance as marital property.

Adding your spouse to the account where you hold your inherited assets, depositing your inheritance into a shared account or putting them on the title or ownership paperwork are all ways to give your spouse a claim to ownership of your inheritance if you get divorced.

By using marital assets to maintain your separate property

If you move into the house that you inherited from your parents, your spouse might eventually claim a share of the house’s value if you divorce. If your spouse is on the title, if they performed extensive physical labor to repair or maintain the property, or if either of you invested marital income in the property, then at least some of its value may be vulnerable in your divorce.

You could protect yourself from such claims with a marital agreement. If you don’t have an agreement with your spouse, then you may have to convince the court that your inheritance is truly separate property that the court should not divide.

Learning more about property division rules in New York can help you prepare for the likely outcome of your upcoming divorce.