Role of Inheritance in a Divorce in NJ
According to the Survey of Consumer Finances, the median inheritance in the U.S. is $69,000.
Inheritances are often significant financial assets, making them highly disputed property in a divorce case. Depending on how you have managed your inheritance, it may remain under your name or be distributed partially to your spouse.
If you are getting divorced, you may already be wondering, “Is my spouse entitled to my inheritance in N.J.?” Fortunately, New Jersey law has a straightforward way of addressing this issue.
Keep reading to learn how a court will handle inheritance in a divorce case.
Inheritance in a Divorce
New Jersey law uses equitable distribution to decide how to divide assets in a divorce. This means that assets are not necessarily split 50-50, but rather that the judge will take into account each spouse’s circumstances and what each person brought into the marriage.
This involves making a distinction between marital property and separate property. Separate property includes assets that you acquired before the marriage. Inheritances from relatives and gifts you received from third parties are also considered individual property and thus not subject to equitable distribution.
Whether you received an inheritance by being named in someone’s will or through intestate succession, it is initially considered separate property. However, exceptions may depend on what you did with the inheritance after receiving it.
Can Your Spouse Take Your Inheritance in a Divorce?
There are several situations in which your spouse may be entitled to part of your inheritance:
- The inheritance was given in the name of both you and your spouse.
- You have given part of it to them as a gift.
- You have placed the money in a joint bank account.
- You have used the money to buy a home or other shared marital property for your family.
If your spouse claims you have given them a certain amount as a gift, but you declare that you did not, the court must use evidence to decide who is telling the truth. There needs to be evidence, usually in the form of financial records, that you gave your spouse part of your inheritance as a gift for their claim to succeed in court.
If you deposited the money into a joint bank account and kept it there long-term, the judge may decide that it is a joint marital asset. This would entitle your spouse to part of the inheritance.
You might have put the money into a joint account for a few days while setting up a separate account in your name to transfer it to. If that is the case, you will need to demonstrate that in your argument to prove that you did not intend to treat the money as a marital asset.
Protecting Your Inheritance
If you don’t want your spouse to get any of your inheritance, it’s vital to never commingle your money with theirs. Instead, your estate must be kept in a separate account under your name to clarify that it is not a shared property.
If you buy something with the money (such as a car) and keep the title in your name only, that is also considered your separate property.
Another way to keep your inheritance separate is to write it in a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement that you and your spouse signed before you got married can ensure no confusion about who owns the inheritance.
Divorce Attorney Near Me
Surviving divorce can be stressful and overwhelming without support. You probably have many questions in addition to what happens with inheritance in a divorce. The best divorce lawyer can help answer these questions.
Get in touch with our family law firm at Dalena & Bosch, so our attorneys can support and advise you in the best way during your divorce process.