There are many different ways in which a person can acquire assets. One is through an inheritance. Sometimes, inheritances can be rather large. Thus, in a divorce, whether an inheritance one of the spouses received is subject to being split in the divorce can sometimes be a very significant issue.
Generally, an inheritance that was given to a person with no mention of their spouse, whether it was given before or during the marriage, is considered separate property. Thus, in a divorce, it is typically viewed as property that specifically belongs to that person and is not subject to division.
There are, however, things that can turn assets received through an inheritance from separate property into property that can be subject to being split in a divorce. Sometimes, commingling the assets causes such a transformation. An example of commingling is putting inheritance assets into a joint bank account a person holds with their spouse that is used for handling joint expenses. Using the assets to enhance a jointly held marital asset (such as a marital home) can also trigger such a transformation.
What specific things cause inheritance assets to become able to be divided in a divorce vary significantly from state to state. Thus, what the applicable state law is and what happened to inheritance assets following them being received can play significant roles in what happens with these assets in a divorce.
Consequently, careful investigation of the circumstances surrounding any inheritance assets you or your spouse has received can be important when getting divorced. Experienced divorce attorneys can help with such matters.
Source: FindLaw, "Inheritance and Divorce," Accessed Sept. 5, 2014