Rules for Dividing an Inheritance


When dividing assets during a Pasadena divorce, inherited money presents a few unique issues that couples should be aware of.

In a community property state such as California, marital property is divided equally. Marital property includes income from employment, the couple's home, vehicles, and other possessions of financial value. It does not include an inheritance, as long as the money from the inheritance is kept separate from general household funds. For example, an inheritance left in a separate savings or investment account belongs to the person who received it. An inheritance placed in an account used to pay marital debts becomes marital property. If your spouse is allowed to use a portion of inheritance funds to pay for discretionary expenses or helps to pay a portion of the inheritance tax, the inheritance may be considered marital property in this case as well.

When discussing inheritance and divorce law, it's important to realize that an inheritance is defined as an asset of value left to an heir through the decedent's will. Sometimes, families will allow an heir to purchase land or other assets for a very small amount in order to avoid being subjected to an inheritance tax. If the item is purchased, even if it's for far below market value, it's no longer considered an inheritance in a divorce proceeding and thus subject to division as marital property.

If you are expecting to receive an inheritance in the future, no matter what the monetary value, this is not considered an asset. The courts have decided that since a person is free to change his or her will at any time, it is unfair to consider the value of a possible future inheritance in a divorce settlement.

Since the rules surrounding the distribution of inherited money can be complicated, it's important to pick an experienced Pasadena divorce attorney to handle your case. A lawyer who has worked with clients in similar situations has the skills needed to advocate on your behalf.