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Is your inheritance separate property in a Massachusetts divorce?

You probably recognize that some of your property is marital, which means that you share ownership of it with your spouse. The home where you live is marital property, as you probably both are on the mortgage and on the title for the property. You may share retirement savings and have cooperatively purchased all of your home furnishings.

Separating your marital property will be one of the biggest challenges in your upcoming divorce. Many couples find it very difficult to reach a settlement agreement that they both find fair. Some couples even disagree about which assets they have to share with one another.

Massachusetts has an equitable distribution law that requires that you share your income from during the marriage with one another. If you received an inheritance from your parents during the marriage, will you have to divide your inherited assets with your spouse?

An inheritance is often separate property

Unless your parents specifically left the inheritance to you and your spouse, which is rare, you can theoretically claim that whatever you inherited is your separate property that you will not need to divide with your spouse. The courts may agree with you, but commingling could put some of your inheritance at risk.

Commingling is what occurs when you deposit thousands of dollars in inherited money into a joint bank account or when you give your spouse a debit card for the account you inherited from your father. If you combined your inherited property with marital assets, made your spouse a co-owner or gave them total authority over the inherited assets, they may be able to claim that you treated it as marital property, thus making it subject to division.

However, if you maintained it separately, you likely will not need to divide it. The bigger your inheritance is, the more likely your spouse is to covet it in your upcoming divorce. Especially when some commingling occurred, you may want to consider negotiating a property division settlement outside of court so that you have more control over the exact terms of how you divide your property.

Understanding when your inheritance could you vulnerable during divorce proceedings can help you prepare to mediate with your ex or presents the best case possible in the Massachusetts family courts.