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Treatment of inheritances during divorce

The manner in which an individual handles an inheritance could later affect how it is treated in case of a divorce. Because Virginia is not a community property state, marital properties and separate properties are treated differently during divorce. In many cases, an inheritance is viewed as a separate property that is not subject to the principle of equitable distribution. However, there are some exceptions.

Comingling is the act of combining separate and marital resources, and this can lead to complications in the classification of inheritance assets at the time of a divorce. For example, the use of inheritance money to cover marital costs or debts might be viewed as comingling. Depositing an inheritance into a marital bank account or using it to contribute to a marital investment might also qualify as comingling. Similarly, supplementing an inheritance account with marital funds can result in comingled assets. In such cases, the inheritance may be considered a marital asset.

In order to maintain immunity for any inheritance funds or similar gifts, it is important to maintain a separation between those assets and other marital holdings. Additionally, an individual who expects to receive a significant inheritance might want to consider a prenuptial agreement to limit the risk of later having to share that asset if a divorce follows. It is also helpful to note that in some cases, funds from inheritances that have been unintentionally comingled might be exempted in part.

At the time an inheritance is received, an individual might not think about the possibility of divorce. If the issue later becomes a concern, it may be helpful to meet with a lawyer or accounting professional to sort out the issue of marital and separate property prior to filing so that such assets can be safeguarded.

Source: Findlaw, "Inheritance and Divorce", December 09, 2014

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