Q&A: Is it Possible to Get a Portion of my Spouse's Inheritance if we Divorce or Separate?

DIVORCE & INHERITANCE:

The short answer is, it depends. Normally, the rule in the U.S., I believe in all the states is that inheritances are separate property. So the fact that you were married for 40 years and your spouse cheated causing your divorce would not be itself enable you to reap a part of the $30 million in stocks, cash and property that her 80 year old mother bequeathed her in a will.
Unless, in some way shape or form, that money or property was used, mixed or dispensed into the marriage. How can that occur? Here are a few examples:

  1. Your spouse used a portion of the money to pay down the mortgage on the marital home.
  2. Your spouse used a portion of the money to repair the marital home.
  3. Your spouse deposited a portion of, or all of the money, into a joint account he shares with you.
  4. Your spouse put your name on the deed to property he or she inherited.
  5. Your spouse promises to give you a portion in a written contractual agreement or will.
  6. You spouse uses a portion of the money for pay for things in the marriage including the mortgage, property taxes, repairs, medical expenses, family cars, jointly owned equipment and appliances, joint loans, or even family vacations, or your wedding itself (including the rings, etc) this might turn it into marital property.

These are some of the ways in which inherited property potentially can be turned into jointly owned marital property – whether deliberately or unintentionally. There are others.

Sometimes and under certain circumstances, only a portion of an inheritance may have been turned into marital property and a spouse would only be entitled to that portion. So lets say interest payments from a multimillion dollar inheritance were used to pay for a down payment on a new home for the couple. Conceivably only that portion and not the principal portion would be marital property.

It is always important to consult an estate or probate attorney as well as your own divorce attorney to see what your rights are in your specific situation.