What Happens To Inheritance During A Divorce

The sobering statistics in the U.S. show that married couples have a 50% likelihood of getting divorced. With these odds, it is best to have a clear picture of how partners expect marriage to proceed and possibly end if circumstances lead to divorce. Preparing now can keep an emotionally charged situation more manageable and help preserve your property, particularly an inheritance.

Working with a compassionate family law attorney in Los Angeles can help you navigate the stressful events of a divorce and understand the division of assets. Securing your future financially against loss is critical. Making decisions about inheritance is best facilitated by an attorney to prevent complications and confusion.  

The Types of Property in a Marriage

California classifies assets into two categories, separate and marital property. Even when partners agree on the division of property in a divorce, a formal order still needs to be issued by a judge. If an agreement cannot be reached, a family law attorney can be a priceless resource in facilitating mediation and preventing an exhausting court process. 

Separate Property

A person acquires separate property before marriage or after a separation. Separate property generally includes gifts or inheritance, which appears straightforward.

Marital Property

Marital property is any assets acquired during the legal union and is jointly owned. Any assets acquired by either member of the partnership are considered marital property.

Commingling Property

One of the significant challenges that a couple can face in categorizing assets, particularly when it comes to an inheritance, is commingling. Commingling is the mixing of separate property with marital property. How does this situation expand in complexity?

Bank Accounts

If the inheritance is a sum of money, keeping those funds in a separate account you own should present no issues. However, it is considered commingling when the money goes into a joint account. Placing the money into an account both parties own gives the other party in the marriage legal access to the funds.

Additionally, putting the inheritance into a pre-existing account with a balance of funds blurs the lines as to where one amount ends and the other begins.


Assets purchased during the marriage with an inheritance become marital properties. Even though the money used for the purchase was initially considered separate property, the courts now regard the property as communal.

Proving Separate Property

There are avenues to prove separate property in a marriage, especially if you are concerned about inheritance and commingling. Documentation tracing the funds may prevent the conversion of separate property to marital property. Keeping statements of bank accounts, tax returns, and investment accounts can serve as proof of a donor’s gift and intention and the couple’s choice to maintain specific assets as separate property. 

Pre and postnuptial agreements are a safe way to ensure an inheritance remains classified as separate property. There are specific legal requirements for a postnuptial agreement to be valid.

Guidance with Inheritance and Divorce in Los Angeles

Divorce and the division of assets is a complicated, detailed process in the best circumstances. The task may seem daunting and frightening with thoughts of losing all or part of an inheritance. The time to secure your financial future is now.

The trusted team of Martin Family Law Group implicitly understands the laws concerning divorce and the division of property, including inheritance. We tackle the daunting tasks an individual faces in a stressful event and help develop a secure financial plan while fighting for your future.