Kevin Qualls Family Law
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Who is entitled to an inheritance in a divorce?

The divorce process is never easy, and is often riddled with complicated laws and rules. Even if children are not involved, and child custody or child support are not a consideration, divorcing spouses must still deal with issues such as spousal support and property division. And such issues, if not mutually agreed upon or discussed and determined in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, can lead to problems when entering into a divorce. So what happens if one spouse has an inheritance? The answer is dependent on a few factors.

First, one must look at the state where the divorce is taking place. In California, like most in the United States, inheritance is not considered for equitable distribution in the event of a divorce, unless the inheritance is "shared." What does this mean?

If an inheritance is deposited into a joint bank account, or if the funds are used for the improvement of a home, which are considered joint expenses, for example, then the inheritance is considered commingled. Commingled funds or property are not considered separate property, and are therefore subject to division during a divorce. If the inheritance was not comingled with other marital funds, or used on joint expenses, then it may be considered separate property. Separate property is not divided during a divorce.

It may be difficult to prove that one's inheritance funds were separate property or if were commingled. During such property division disputes, it may be wise to seek professional advice from a law firm familiar with family law. The decisions made during a divorce may end up costing one spouse thousands of dollars or more -- money often needed to move on from the failed marriage.

Source:, "Inheritance and Divorce," Accessed on Jan. 19, 2016

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