When your parents passed away, they left you a significant inheritance. You were thrilled about the inheritance despite the situation, because it meant that you’d be better able to provide for your family.
After you received it, you put that money into your joint bank account. Your spouse was always respectful of the money and rarely used any without asking. It was there as a cushion, so you were happy to have it there where anyone could access it.
Now, your spouse has decided that they’d like a divorce. Part of their request is to take half of that money, even though they’re aware that it’s an inheritance. Can they do that?
If you shared your inheritance, it may now be marital property
One thing you need to consider is that you put the money into a shared account before, and you had the intention to share it with your family. As a result of that action, you’ve essentially shown that you were willing to allow your spouse to use those funds without restriction.
Usually, inheritances are protected as separate property. However, if you share that money in a joint account or you use it to purchase property that you put your spouse’s name on as well, then you could lose a portion of it if you get a divorce.
Why is it possible to lose an inheritance in a joint account?
The reason for this is commingling. Commingling converts separate property into marital property under certain circumstances. During your divorce, you do have the opportunity to show that this was your inheritance and that you would like to keep it separate, but a judge may need to determine if none, part of or all of that inheritance is now marital property because of how you kept it. If you can prove that you didn’t intend for the money to be shared, you may be able to keep it separate. If not, then your spouse may be entitled to a share of that inheritance regardless of the fact that it was intended for you after your loved one passed away.