When couples marry, they merge their lives in many ways, including their finances. However, when one spouse receives an inheritance, the question arises: does that inheritance become marital property?
In New York, the answer is not straightforward and depends on several factors.
Inheritance as separate property
Under New York law, separate property is defined as property acquired before the marriage, property received as a gift or inheritance, and any property identified as separate property in a prenuptial agreement. New York follows an equitable distribution law in divorce, but this does not mean all property is split evenly between the divorcing couple.
Therefore, if one spouse receives an inheritance during the marriage and did not commingle the with marital assets, it is likely to fall under the category of separate property.
Inheritance as marital property
There are certain situations in which an inheritance may fall under the category of marital property in the eyes of the court. If the spouse used the inheritance to pay for marital expenses, such as household bills or a family vacation, the courts may consider it a gift to the marriage and classify it as marital property.
Additionally, if there was any commingling of the inheritance and other types of marital assets, it may also become marital property. For example, if the spouse deposited an inheritance into a joint bank account and used it for joint expenses, it may be likely that the courts classify it as marital property in a divorce.
The bottom line
Inheritance in New York can be complex when it comes to divorce proceedings. If you receive an inheritance during your marriage and worry about losing it in the event of a divorce, it is crucial to keep it separate from your marital assets.