Will you split your inheritance with your spouse in a divorce?

On Behalf of | May 12, 2020 | Family law

One of the most complicated parts of getting divorced will involve finding a fair way to split your possessions and debts with your ex. It is common for people to want more of the marital estate as a way to punish their spouse or to want to defend certain assets that they acquired, especially if they were the breadwinner for the family or have an emotional attachment to specific assets.

If you inherited assets, whether you received real estate or financial accounts, you might wonder if the law in Virginia will require you to split that inheritance with your spouse during a divorce. To understand if your spouse has a claim to the inheritance, you should first familiarize yourself with how Virginia divides your property in a divorce.

The Virginia family courts want to split your marital assets equitably

The judge presiding over a divorce in Virginia will look at many different factors from the marriage when trying to figure out how to split up assets fairly. Virginia’s equitable distribution standard means that fairness, not a 50/50 split, is the goal of this process.

However, the judge typically will only divide the assets and debts that they determine are marital property. In many cases, your inheritance is separate property, which means it will remain exempt from division by the courts. In fact, the law specifically references an inheritance or bequest as potential separate property. Unfortunately, there are still circumstances in which your spouse could claim part of that inheritance.

Did you mix your inherited assets with marital assets?

If you engage in a process called commingling, you place separate property into a marital account or give your spouse total access and control over your separate property. Your spouse can reasonably claim those assets as marital property and ask the courts to split them in the divorce.

As such, maintaining inherited wealth in separate bank accounts is usually the best approach. You will need to look closely at your bank records to verify whether your spouse could allege that your commingling of the inherited assets made them marital property.