What Happens to Inheritances in a Divorce?

One of the major points of contention in most divorces is property division. Under Michigan divorce law (MCL 552.6), only marital property gets divided in a divorce. This means that any separate or non-marital property is not subject to division-each spouse gets to keep his or her own separate or non-marital property. When it comes to dividing marital property, both assets and debts are considered property of the marriage, and thus both get divided. Yet division does not mean an equal split of property. Rather, Michigan property division operates on the theory of "equitable distribution" whereby each spouse receives the amount of property that is fair to him or to her.

Sometimes property division can get extremely complicated, especially when it comes to figuring out how to classify property. Many people who are considering divorce want to know if particular property is likely to be classified as marital or non-marital property. One of the types of property that frequently comes up is inheritance. The question of whether an inheritance is subject to division in a divorce depends on various factors. We want to give you more information below.

When Did the Inheritance Happen?

Inheritances can take many different forms, from monetary inheritances to tangible property like furniture or books to real estate. Yet when it comes to figuring out whether you should anticipate your inheritance being subject to division, the first question a divorce lawyer likely will want to know in determining how your inheritance is likely to be classified is when you inherited it. Did you inherit the property prior to the date of your marriage? Or did you inherit the property after you were married?

Regardless of your answer, there are important follow-up questions that will help to determine whether your property is likely to be divided in your divorce.

Who Received the Inheritance?

This question might seem like an obvious one, but if you inherited property after the date of your marriage, your lawyer will want to know more about who received the inheritance. For example, was this clearly an inheritance only for you, or did your loved one specify that the inheritance was for your family?

Usually, property inherited after the date of marriage but given to only one spouse will be classified as separate property.

How Has Your Inheritance Been Used?

Even if your inheritance looks like separate property-either because you inherited it before the date of the marriage or it was left only to you if you inherited it after the date of your marriage-there are still ways the court can classify the inheritance as marital property.

Your lawyer will want to know: have you commingled the inheritance with any marital property? If you commingled the inheritance (or combined it) with marital property in some way, it can be more difficult to properly separate the non-marital property from marital property.

Contact a Michigan Divorce Lawyer

Do you have questions about property division in a Michigan divorce? An experienced Michigan divorce lawyer at our firm can assist with your case. Contact the Law Offices of Michael A. Robbins to learn more about the divorce services we provide.