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Understanding how divorce affects inheritances

Some Missouri residents may benefit from learning more about what happens to inheritances when a couple files for divorce. Whether or not an inheritance is subject to property division depends on whom the asset was given to and how the asset was utilized upon receipt.

By law, inheritances are not generally considered to be marital property and, therefore, aren't necessarily subject to equitable distribution. Typically, inheritances are regarded as separate property that belongs to the spouse who received it.

Laws vary about how an inheritance is handled once it has been shared. For example, if the inheritance was monetary in nature and placed into a joint bank account, then the inheritance loses its immunity. Inheritance money that was spent on improvements of the family home may also lose its immunity. Essentially, if separate assets were used in a manner that benefited joint assets, the inheritance is no longer be considered separate and might be subject to equitable distribution between the parties.

In cases where a spouse enters into a union with prior wealth, similar rules apply. If commingling of wealth has occurred and no prior agreement was filed by the couple beforehand, the assets may be considered to be community property and may be distributed fairly upon divorce. The best way to safeguard inheritances that were received prior to marriage may be to file a prenuptial agreement. Someone who is facing property division issues may wish to speak to a divorce lawyer, as he or she can help determine what assets can or cannot be included in the agreement.

Source: Findlaw, "Inheritance and Divorce", December 17, 2014

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