There are countless things to stress out over during divorce proceedings, and the division of assets can be as contentious a point as any. Someone with an inheritance will naturally be concerned about whether or not their ex will have a claim on those monies. In some cases, the amount of inheritance involved can be significant, so this is clearly a legitimate concern.

What is Marital and Separate Property in a Divorce?

In New Jersey divorces and civil union dissolutions, courts divide up the marital property in an “equitable” fashion that is supposed to be fair. However, property or money inherited by only one spouse does not usually fall into this category if it was intended for that person only and was kept separate during the marriage or  union. All of the separating couple’s assets will be classified as marital or separate property, with the following parameters:

  • Marital property consists of assets and debts acquired throughout the marriage, by one spouse or the two together (with exceptions).
  • Separate property are assets that either party acquired before they married and assets inherited by only one spouse during the marriage. It also include assets that were received by only one spouse as gift(s) from a third party during the marriage.

What Happens if I Added My Spouse’s Name to My Inheritance?

Though no one gets married with intent to divorce in the future, it is wise to protect your own assets when entering in to a marriage. Hold onto all the documentation that shows that the funds were intended for only you, rather than you and your spouse. Another good idea is to put the inheritance into a trust and specify yourself or your children as beneficiaries.

It is not unusual for a spouse to add a partner’s name to the title of an inherited property and oftentimes, the added-on spouse will contribute to the mortgage payments or remodeling costs. An inheritance from a family member could have been deposited into a joint checking, savings, or investment account. This kind of fund mixing is called “co-mingling,” and could need to be untangled.

Another situation could be when one spouse uses an inheritance to buy something like a boat that is put in both names – a separate asset can evolve into a marital one. So as a guideline, separate property like inheritances are usually not subject to equitable distribution in New Jersey divorces unless it was turned into a marital one.

What if My Spouse Goes After My Inheritance?

Unfortunately, this situation happens all too often during divorces and if you have an inheritance you will need to prove that it is a separate asset. While many couples keep inheritances apart from marital assets, this is not always the case. If the money or property was mixed into a joint ownership, you may be able to argue it with the help of a qualified divorce attorney. It may be possible to show the court that:

  • You never intended to treat the inheritance as a marital asset.
  • The money was only in a joint account in order to keep it safe there for a short amount of time.
  • The inheritance was only ever intended for you.

The Marlton Divorce Attorneys at Burnham Douglass Help Divorcing Couples Who Disagree About Inheritances

If you are worried that your soon-to-be-ex-spouse might be able to take away part of your inheritance, do not hesitate to contact our skilled Marlton divorce attorneys at Burnham Douglass. Complete our online form or call our Marlton and Northfield, New Jersey offices at 856-751-5505. We help clients in New Jersey, Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Gloucester County, and Mercer County.