As you and your spouse get divorced, the two of you have to divide up all of the assets that you’ve acquired together during the course of your relationship. Maybe you’ve bought a car or a home together, or perhaps you just have a savings account where you’ve been keeping your shared income. No matter what your assets look like, you know that you have to divide them.

But what about something that you didn’t necessarily earn, such as an inheritance. This is money that was given directly to you by relative, so you’re fairly certain that the goal is to keep that money within the family. If you and your ex get divorced, do you have to give them some of your inheritance?

Did you share the inheritance during the marriage?

The default for an inheritance is that it is viewed as separate property, meaning it is owned only by the person to whom it was given and they do not have to split it with their spouse.

This default position can be changed, however, if the couples share the money during the marriage. This is also known as commingling the assets, which is when the assets you own as a couple are mixed with the inheritance.

For example, you could simply keep the inheritance in your bank account with the rest of your earnings, or you could use it to buy something that you both use, such as a family home. Some people simply use the inheritance to pay for other joint things, like a vacation or upkeep on the house.

All of this shows that you’re sharing the inheritance with your spouse, which then gives them some level of claim to that inheritance when you get a divorce. There are cases where the inheritance has been so thoroughly commingled that it just has to be divided with the rest of the couple’s assets. It is impossible to sort the two from one another any longer.

Considering your options

It’s understandable that protecting your inheritance would be very important to you during a divorce, and that starts with understanding what the status of the inheritance is. At this time, consider all of the legal options that you have to protect the assets you want to retain.