During the divorce process, you may have questions regarding whether your spouse has rights to an inheritance you acquired while married. For instance, your uncle might have passed away and left you assets in his will, but did not mention your spouse even though he knew you were married.
Generally, here in Colorado, the law considers an inheritance given specifically to you as separate property during a divorce proceeding. However, what you did with this inheritance after you received it might influence whether you will have to give up a part of it to your spouse during the divorce process.
How an inheritance is handled during divorce
An inheritance typically does not have to undergo equitable distribution during divorce since the court does not deem it marital property. Instead, the recipient of the inheritance may theoretically legally keep it for himself or herself.
However, if you put your inheritance money into a bank account that belongs to both you and your spouse, you have comingled your inheritance with other funds. In this case, these assets lose their immunity and thus are subject to the equitable distribution of property. Similarly, expect to give up some of your inheritance if you used all or a portion of the money to improve your marital home or paid for other marital assets.
Addressing the matter outside of court
If possible, you and your spouse may decide to use an alternative dispute resolution process, such as divorce mediation or informal negotiations, to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement regarding your inheritance. However, if you cannot see eye to eye on the matter, you will have to take the matter to court to have a judge make the final decision regarding it.
Going to court
If you ended up comingling your inheritance with marital assets, but never meant to share these assets with your spouse, it may be possible to prevent your future ex from acquiring a portion of the inheritance. To achieve this, you must demonstrate that it was never your intention to share your inheritance.
The burden of proof in this situation is relatively high, and the fact that laws regarding an inheritance can be difficult to understand only makes matters more challenging. However, a qualified divorce attorney can provide the advice and guidance needed to address this issue with the goal of helping you to preserve your inheritance.