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Will I have to share my inheritance with my spouse when we divorce?

If you have recently received an inheritance – or soon will – and a divorce is imminent, you could be concerned. Will the divorce court take half of your inheritance and give it to your soon-to-be ex-spouse? Will the divorce court subtract the value of your inheritance from your share of the marital assets?

In order to answer these questions, it’s important to understand the difference between marital property and individual property.

Marital and individual property

Generally speaking, individual property is anything you had before you got married, while marital property is assets that you acquired during your marriage. There are several exceptions to this, however.

For example, if you have something that is individual property, but you use it consistently together as a couple, it might become marital property (such as if you own a house that your spouse moves into with you after marriage).

Usually, divorce courts will let both spouses keep their respective individual property and will only divide marital property equitably.

Is an inheritance individual property?

That depends upon how you received it. If you specifically were named as the beneficiary of the inheritance, then the court will likely see that inheritance as individual property, and let you keep it exclusively.

However, sometimes someone’s estate plan names a couple as beneficiaries, or else names one person “and their spouse.” If this is the case, then you and your spouse would own the inheritance as marital property. Thus, it would be subject to division by the divorce court.

No one wants to lose a portion of their rightful inheritance in a divorce. Knowing how the state of Virginia will classify your inheritance can help you to know if that’s a real possibility in your situation.