Is My Spouse Entitled to a Part of My Inheritance?

Marital property is shared property that two spouses acquire during their marriage. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, rather than a community property state. Therefore, under New Jersey law, inheritances are considered separate property, not marital property. This means a spouse is not entitled to it unless it is converted into marital property, usually by commingling.

Commingling Assets

If an inheritance is commingled with marital property, it loses the protection of being separate property. Commingling would mean that the inheritance was mixed together with martial money or property. If the inheritance is put into a joint account, then your spouse would be entitled to half of the inheritance if you lived in a community property state. However, if you live in an equitable distribution state like New Jersey, your spouse would still be entitled to the inheritance, but not necessarily half of it.

Non-Monetary Contributions

If the inheritance is property instead of money, then any non-monetary contributions from your spouse to that property can leave it unprotected. For example, if you inherit a house and your spouse helps improve the condition of the house, it might cease being considered separate property. A court would consider the amount of work the spouse put into fixing the house to decide if it is separate property or not. To keep the property separate, the best course of action is to not include the spouse in repairs, or pay someone to repair the property without using marital money.

Prenups

One of the best ways to protect an inheritance is a prenup, which is an agreement a couple can sign before their marriage that addresses a range of financial issues. This document can be drafted to only apply to the inheritance so that all other assets in the relationship are not subject to the contract. A prenup is a strong way to protect inheritance from a spouse.

Contact an Experienced Attorney Today

A spouse is not automatically entitled to your inheritance, and an inheritance can be legally protected. However, your spouse can have a claim to the inheritance depending on its status as separate or marital property. If you have any questions on how to keep your inheritance separate from your marital property, contact an experienced attorney today.

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