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Can A Family Inheritance Be Split In A Divorce?

Divorce is hard enough. Add in the complicated questions of how to divide all the property you have acquired over the years to the inevitable emotions and conflicts that surround the end of a marriage and it becomes nearly overwhelming. One question many people have is whether a family inheritance is subject to division in a divorce.

New York Law on Equitable Distribution

New York is an “equitable distribution” state. What does this mean? This means that the basic principle is that property acquired by a spouse during a marriage will remain that spouse’s property following the marriage and if it is to be divided, it will only be divided based on principles of “equity” or “fairness.” This is different from “community property” states where all property acquired during the marriage is considered “marital” and subject to a 50/50 split.

KRS §  403.190 provides that all property acquired during the marriage is marital except under certain circumstances. One of those is “property acquired by gift, bequest, devise or descent.” This includes family inheritance to one spouse. What does this mean in practice? Quite simply, it means that if you inherit any money during the marriage, that will remain your personal property. The main factor to consider is whether this property was a gift (or a bequest, in legal terms) to one spouse. This can be determined by a reading of the will that granted the property. If there was no will and the property was distributed by the state among the surviving heirs, it is still the property of the spouse who inherited it.

Are There Exceptions?

Yes. If you inherit property or a business and your spouse substantially contributes to an increase in the value of that property, your spouse may be entitled to a portion of that increase in value. For example, if you inherit a house and your spouse builds an addition onto that house and therefore increases its value, that spouse will have a partial claim to that property in the event of divorce.

What Should I Do If I Have Questions About Marital Property?

As always, should you have any legal questions, it is best to consult a professional. We at Bombardo Law have years of experience in answering questions of divorce and property distribution. Please feel free to contact us today at (315)488-5544 or online.

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