If you are planning to file for divorce, you may wonder if it will jeopardize your family inheritance. New York follows the equitable distribution model when dividing marital property. In general, this means that separate property, such as an inheritance from a family member, remains yours to keep.
However, certain circumstances could put at least a portion of your family inheritance at risk. The key to preserving inherited assets when getting divorced is showing the court that they are separate from your marital property.
Commingling your inheritance money puts it at risk
When two people get married, they bring separate property or assets into the marriage. If they keep their money and property apart during the marriage, these assets remain separate and independent of each other. However, when married couples use their separate funds to benefit the marriage or family, it commingles (mixes) them.
For example, say you begin transferring your inheritance money from your separate savings account into your joint account to pay your home’s electricity bill. The act of moving your inheritance money into a jointly owned account converts it to marital property.
You also mix funds if you and your spouse pool your assets to pay the mortgage or make a big family purchase. Essentially, you commingle separate property any time you use it with or on behalf of your spouse.
Property division is one of the most complicated aspects of legally terminating a marriage. An effective way to protect assets (including your inheritance) is learning how divorce and equitable distribution work in New York. Even if you have already mixed your inheritance with your marital property, knowledge and advocacy can help ensure that you get a fair property settlement.