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Will my spouse get part of my inheritance in our divorce?

Let's say your marriage has been on the rocks for the last five years, but you stayed together for financial reasons. However, you recently received a $2 million inheritance and now you have the financial independence you need to break free. The worry is: Will your soon-to-be-ex-spouse get to take half of your inheritance money?

Everything depends on how you treat your inheritance money after receiving it. Generally, an inheritance will be immune from equitable distribution laws in North Carolina; however, there are some circumstances when they're not, and you will definitely want to avoid these circumstances if you don't want to share the money.

Circumstances under which an inheritance could be converted into "marital assets" -- thereby making the money divisible in asset division proceedings -- include the commingling of the inheritance funds within a joint bank account. If you deposit your inheritance money into a joint account that finances joint marital costs, then it will lose its protections from asset division. Furthermore, if you use your inheritance money to pay for joint marital expenses, like home improvements, then the spouses might be divided during the divorce.

Sometimes the law is not entirely clear on the matter of inheritances and divorce, and one spouse will do everything he or she can to get a piece of the other spouse's inheritance money during the divorce process. In order to avoid this lack of clarity, and safeguard your inheritance money, you might want to consider speaking with a North Carolina family law attorney to draft a postnuptial agreement. A postnuptial agreement is drafted during the course a marriage, and spouses can use them to define exactly whose assets are whose during their marriages.

Source: FindLaw, "Inheritance and divorce," accessed Jan. 26, 2017

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