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I received an inheritance. Will I have to split it in a divorce?

When Dakota County couples divorce, one of their primary concerns is property division. For the most part, anything acquired during a marriage will be split in a divorce. One exception is inheritances. So does this mean that the spouse who receives an inheritance does not have to part with it in a divorce?

Even though Minnesota is an equitable distribution state, inheritances are not considered marital property. An inheritance belongs solely to the person who receives it. If the recipient keeps the money for himself or herself, it will be considered non-marital property. But once the money is shared between the spouses, the issue of property division arises should the couple divorce.

Once the money is commingled - put into a joint account or used for shared purposes - it becomes marital property. The inheritance is no longer immune to property division rules and must be split in a divorce. This is true even if the spouse received the money before the marriage and deposited it into a joint account to be shared between the spouses.

But what if the recipient put the money into a joint account and never intended to share it with the other spouse? The recipient must prove that the money was not meant to be shared. As you can imagine, this can be very challenging to prove. Therefore, when one spouse receives an inheritance, it is very important to take the necessary steps to keep it separate. It may be helpful to seek the advice of a financial expert or attorney. A prenuptial agreement or other legal document can help in this case.

Source: FindLaw, "Inheritance and Divorce," accessed Nov. 29, 2014

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