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Can my ex really claim half my inheritance?

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Have you ever wondered if your ex could take half your inheritance in a divorce? It’s a scary thought, especially if there’s family money or a valuable estate on the line.

The truth is, inheritance can be considered a marital asset, meaning your spouse may be entitled to their fair share. But don’t panic just yet.

There are steps you can take to protect your inheritance and ensure it stays in the family where it belongs. While divorce is never easy, you don’t have to lose sleep over losing half of what your loved ones left you. With some smart planning, you can feel confident your inheritance is safe. Keep reading to find out exactly how to shield your assets from a spiteful ex.

Knowledge is power, my friend.

Is inheritance considered a marital asset?

Is your inheritance considered a marital asset that your ex can claim half of in a divorce? Generally speaking, inheritances are considered separate property and not divisible in a divorce. However, there are some exceptions to be aware of.

When an inheritance can be considered a marital asset

If you inherit money or assets during the marriage and commingle them with joint funds or assets, they can potentially be considered marital property. For example, if you deposit an inherited sum into a joint bank account that both you and your spouse use, or use it to pay off the mortgage on your jointly-owned home.

Inheritance merged?

In these cases, the inheritance has essentially been merged into the marital estate, so your ex could claim a portion of it.

To avoid this, keep an inheritance separate by depositing it into an account in your own name and using it to pay for expenses that benefit only you. If you want to use some of the money during the marriage in a way that benefits both spouses, consider signing a postnuptial agreement that specifies what portion of the inheritance will remain your separate property before spending it.

Another exception

Another exception is if you inherited a physical asset like a house during the marriage and both you and your spouse used and maintained it as your marital home. Here, the inheritance could be viewed as a marital asset due to both spouses substantially contributing to it over the years.

In contrast, if you rented out an inherited property and simply collected income from it, that income and asset would more likely be considered your separate property.

Bottom line

The bottom line is that in most cases, inheritances are deemed separate property and non-divisible in divorce. But take proactive steps to keep an inheritance separate, and be aware of the exceptions, or you could end up losing a portion of it to your ex. With some prudent management, you can ensure your inheritance stays safely in your hands.

How to Protect Your Inheritance if You Divorce

If you’re going through a divorce, you’ll want to take steps to protect any inheritance you’ve received or expect to receive. Why? Because in many states, inheritances acquired during marriage are considered marital assets that must be split equally in a divorce.

To shield your inheritance, consider the following options:

Keep the funds in a separate account.

Don’t combine inheritance money with joint funds. Keep records showing the source of the funds as an inheritance. This makes it easier to prove the money is separate property.

Create an estate plan.

Meet with an estate planning attorney to create documents like a will, trust, or postnuptial agreement that specify how you want your inheritance distributed. These can help demonstrate your intent to keep the inheritance separate from marital property.


Gift the funds to family members before filing for divorce. If you gift the inheritance to close family members like children from a previous marriage before divorcing, the funds are no longer yours to split. However, there may be gift tax implications, so check with an attorney.

Separate Property

Argue the inheritance is separate property. You’ll need evidence like records proving the source, timing, and amount of the inheritance. You must show you intended to keep the funds separate from marital assets. This approach risks a judge ruling the inheritance is partly or fully marital property.


Negotiate with your spouse. See if your spouse will agree in writing that some or all of your inheritance is your separate property, not subject to division in the divorce. Be prepared to compromise on other assets in exchange.

By taking the right precautions, you can improve the odds of keeping all or most of your inheritance even when going through a divorce. But there are no guarantees, so professional legal advice tailored to your unique situation is highly recommended.

Gov.UK: How Inheritance Tax Works


So there you have it. While divorce is never easy, at least now you know the facts about protecting your inheritance.

The truth is, in most states your inheritance received during marriage is considered separate property that your ex cannot claim in a divorce. The key is keeping those funds separate and not co-mingling them. As long as you don’t add your spouse’s name to accounts or use the money to buy joint assets, you should be in the clear.

The moral of the story? Choose your spouse wisely and keep your finances separate. And if you do end up going your separate ways, make sure to consult with a lawyer to understand your rights. Your future and financial security depend on it.

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