Divorce in NY: Do I Have to Split My Inheritance With My Spouse?

Are you in an unhappy marriage but anticipating an inheritance in the future? Or, are you considering filing for divorce but now you’re concerned that your soon-to-be-ex is entitled to a portion of the inheritance you received during your marriage? Either way, you probably want to know how inheritances are treated in New York divorces. Read on as we answer your questions.

New York is an equitable distribution state. Under New York law, only marital property is divided in a divorce. Marital property includes all assets and income acquired during a marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title or who earned them. Separate property on the other hand, is not subject to division.

Separate property basically includes:

  • Income earned before the marriage
  • Assets acquired before the marriage
  • Gifts acquired during the marriage
  • Inheritances received during the marriage
  • Property purchased with separate property

Keeping an Inheritance Separate

Inheritances are considered separate property and are not subject to division in a divorce providing the inheritance is kept separate. During happier times, spouses are in the habit of depositing an inheritance into the couple’s joint bank account. The individual doesn’t anticipate divorce, so they don’t see any harm in it. They have that “what’s yours is mine” mentality. But when an inheritance is commingled with marital assets, things become complicated and it can convert to marital property.

If you are planning on divorcing but you expect an inheritance while your divorce is pending in the courts, the key is to keep the money separate from your marital assets. Do NOT deposit the funds into a joint checking account. Instead, deposit the funds into a bank account with only your name on it. To prevent further confusion, avoid paying marital debts with the funds from the inheritance.

We hope this article cleared up any confusion you might have had about how inheritances are divided in New York divorces. To learn more about this topic, feel free to reach out to our firm to schedule an initial consultation with a member of our legal team.

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