Divorce and Inherited Assets
“What’s going to happen to our stuff?” Understandably, that’s one of the first questions we field from new family law clients. Property is important, valuable, and sentimental — and one of our major goals in every case we handle is protecting the property interests of the people we serve.
Inheritance is a rather tricky issue in divorce because the Massachusetts courts aren’t always consistent in the way they divide inherited assets. To understand how they might come down in your case, you first need to know a thing or two about the general rules for property division in a Massachusetts divorce.
Marital vs. Separate Property: General Rule in Massachusetts Divorce
As a general matter, Massachusetts divorce courts look at all of the assets for both spouses, whether the assets were obtained before or during marriage, and they divide them equitably (fairly). We typically call assets acquired during the marriage as “marital” and assets acquired before marriage as “separate”, although they do not have the traditional definition.
Divorce laws in Massachusetts dictate a list of factors to look at to determine how an asset is to be divided fairly:
- Length of the marriage
- Conduct of the parties during the marriage
- Age, health, station, occupation, amount and sources of income, vocational skills, employability, estate, liabilities and needs of each party
- The opportunity of each for future acquisition of assets and income
- The amount and duration of alimony
- The contribution of each of the party in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in the value of their respective estates
- Contribution as a homemaker
Court’s Discretion on Divorce and Inherited Assets
Under the general rule, most inherited assets are treated as separate property and, after divorce, they will stay with the partner that originally inherited them. But courts have wide discretion when it comes to bending the rules on divorce and inherited assets. They’re allowed to look at all the facts and circumstances and reach the decision that seems fairest for everyone involved, even if it blurs the lines between marital and separate property.
In fact, couples often blur those lines themselves. Items that were once separate property may become “commingled” during the life of a marriage if the parties use them together over time.
Additionally, a court may decide that inherited assets need to be treated as marital property if one party has a substantial financial obligation to the other. An experienced lawyer can help you make a compelling case to the court about which call is the right one to make.
Protect Your Inherited Property
At Infinity Law Group, it’s our belief that no divorce needs to become excessively contentious over a property dispute. Our attorneys have years of experience in skillfully negotiating effective resolutions that protect your rights without creating unnecessary strife. If an agreement between the parties becomes elusive, we also have the experience it takes to strategically litigate these matters in a court of law.
We understand how important your inheritance is to you. Don’t give up. You may have even more options than you realize. Give us a call right now to learn more about how we can help.
Additionally, please read more about mediation, high asset divorce, grounds for divorce, and other divorce FAQ’s.