When you decide to seek a divorce, you face a lot of uncertainty about what will happen next. Where will you live? How will your children adjust? How will you and your ex divide your assets? If you have significant assets that include an inheritance, you may wonder what will happen to that money in your divorce. The answer isn’t simple.

Separate property vs. marital property

If you received a large inheritance during your marriage, you have to have kept that inheritance as separate property. That means:

  • You didn’t transfer your inheritance funds into a common bank account you share with your spouse.
  • You didn’t use money from an inheritance to renovate the house you own with your spouse.
  • You didn’t use money from an inheritance for a joint investment with your spouse.
  • You put your spouse on the deed of a home you inherited.

In each of the examples above, the inheritance has become part of your marital property.

Another part of receiving an inheritance that can become a point of contention in your divorce is if you have documentation showing that the inheritance was meant for you alone. You need to show that your parents, grandparents or other relatives who gave you the inheritance didn’t intend for it to also go toward your spouse.

Protecting your inheritance from divorce

One way you can protect your inheritance in case of a divorce is to get a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, specifying that your inheritance money will go to you if you and your spouse split. Or you could designate that some of the inheritance go toward your spouse, but you keep the majority. You also can use your inheritance to create a trust for your children, thus shielding those assets from property division in divorce.

If you are concerned about your splitting your inheritance in divorce, you need to consult an experienced family law attorney. An attorney can help you get a better sense of if your inheritance is protected well from equitable property division.