What happens to my inheritance if I get divorced?

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In New Jersey, the treatment of an inheritance in divorce proceedings can vary depending on several factors, including the specific circumstances of the divorce, the nature of the inheritance, and how the inheritance was handled during the marriage.

As a starting point, inheritances are considered separate property rather than marital property in a divorce. This means that if you received an inheritance either before or during your marriage, it is typically not subject to equitable distribution in the divorce proceedings and may remain yours alone. How you treated the inherited funds or property will largely dictate the outcome.

However, there are some exceptions to this general rule. For example:

  1. Commingling: If you commingled the inheritance with marital assets, such as depositing it into a joint bank account or using it to purchase marital property, it may lose its separate property status and become subject to division in the divorce.
  2. Using the inheritance for marital purposes: If you used the inheritance to benefit the marriage or your spouse, such as using it to pay household expenses or joint debts, a court may consider it when dividing marital assets.
  3. Transmutation: If you and your spouse agreed, either explicitly or implicitly, to treat the inheritance as marital property, it may be subject to division in the divorce.
  4. Equitable distribution: New Jersey follows the principle of equitable distribution in divorce, which means that marital property is divided fairly, though not necessarily equally, between the spouses. While inheritances are generally considered separate property, a court may still consider various factors, including the length of the marriage, each spouse’s financial contributions and needs, and any other relevant circumstances, when determining how to distribute marital assets. This means that while you may retain 100% of your inheritance, the martial assets could be allocated to your spouse in a higher percentage than might typically be warranted.

It’s essential to consult with a qualified family law attorney in New Jersey who can provide personalized advice based on your specific situation. They can help you understand how inheritance may be treated in your divorce and advocate for your interests during the legal process.

About Sandy Durst

Sandy Durst, Esq., is the founding partner of The Durst Firm where he heads the Family Law Department. Individuals facing a divorce benefit from the combination of legal skill, common sense and compassion that Sandy brings to each and every matter. Each case is given the personalized attention it deserves.
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