Is My Spouse Entitled to Share My Inheritance or Family Heirlooms in a NJ Divorce?
When a couple decides to divorce or dissolve their civil union, everything the spouses own must be classified as either separate or marital property. Inherited money and property is an important element in this determination.
Although the court will equitably divide the marital assets, according to New Jersey statute N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(h), money or property inherited during the marriage by just one spouse isn’t usually considered marital property, so it isn’t divided during the divorce. So, in short, you do not have to share your inheritance, your spouse does not have a legal claim to it, and it cannot be distributed in whole or in part to the other spouse in the event of a divorce.
Because there is an exception to every rule, if a separate asset is commingled with a marital asset, it loses its exempt character. Thus making the financial toll a divorce can have on your emotional well-being even greater and possibly leaving you more unsure about moving forward in your life.
The reality of how a clear knowledge of one’s financial standing can have a lasting impact on everything from the alimony/spousal support to the division of assets, child custody, to child support cannot be understated.
If you are considering a divorce and you and your spouse disagree about which assets are marital property and which are separate, your best move at this moment is to enlist a knowledgeable and experienced divorce attorney, who can serve as your guide and your champion. Someone to help you navigate through the complex legal process of divorce, while also aggressively advocating for your interests at every turn.
At The Montanari Law Group, LLC, our legal team is equipped to address every facet of your divorce. Having assisted clients in Wayne, Little Falls, Woodland Park, and throughout Passaic and Essex counties, we have earned a reputation as skilled and unwavering legal counselors. With our knowledge and experience, there is no situation for which you will not be prepared during the divorce process. To discuss your case with one of our seasoned New Jersey divorce attorneys, contact us online or at (973) 233-4396 or toll-free at (888) 877-7985 today or a free confidential consultation.
What is the Difference Between Marital or Separate Property in New Jersey?
Marital property may include anything acquired by both parties during the course of the marriage (i.e., marital home, vehicles, pensions, stock options, bonuses, bank accounts, lottery winnings, and even debt). Equitable distribution only applies to marital property, which is defined as property acquired or earned by either party during the marriage.
Separate property, which is not subject to equitable distribution, includes any property that you or your spouse acquired before entering into the marriage or which was given to only you or them as an individual. In certain cases, the line between marital and separate property becomes blurred.
One such example is if you owned a piece of real estate before the marriage, but your spouse made significant renovations or repairs, which increased the home’s value. In a case like this, your spouse may then be entitled to a portion of the increased value of the property.
However, inheritances or gifts received from a third party, such as from the estate or trust of a parent, grandparent, will more than likely not be eligible for equitable distribution.
Help! My Spouse Says I Gifted Part of My Inheritance & Claims it is Marital Property.
It is not uncommon for a divorcing spouse to claim that part of the inheritance was “gifted” to them. How does the court decide if you ever made such a gift to the other party? The burden of proof is on the spouse laying a claim or a right to have the gift considered a marital asset. To succeed in their claim, they would have to provide a significant amount of evidence. As the person claiming it is separate property, it may be necessary to trace the ownership of the asset and clearly show that it was never co-mingled with marital assets.
If you have received an inheritance, before your marriage or during it, and you may have questions about if it’s still separate property, call a Wayne, NJ divorce lawyer to help you understand the ins and outs of marital asset division so that you can protect your inheritance.
How Never “Co-mingling” Gifts and Separate Bank Accounts Can Protect Your Inheritance
Keeping “financial gifts” or property separate may mean 1) setting up an account that is only held in the name of the gift’s recipient or 2) that a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement was drawn up and signed to show who owns what and that both spouses agreed to this plan.
If an inheritance is ever deposited into a joint bank account, even if a new account can be set up for a short time, a court may consider them marital funds. Though one person might consider a few months a short time, the court may consider that period significant enough to treat that money as a joint marital asset. Similarly, if marital funds are deposited in a separate bank account, the court might see the co-mingling funds as evidence of marital property.
Lastly, if separate funds in the form of a financial gift from an aunt are used to acquire a marital asset like a car or home, then the separate asset turns into a marital asset.
Questions about Your Inheritance in the Divorce? Consult our NJ Assets and Divorce Lawyers Today
At The Montanari Law Group, our attorneys are well-versed in New Jersey law related to all facets of property division during divorce. As a result, we have assisted clients in Little Falls, Wayne, Totowa, and throughout Passaic and Essex counties in achieving favorable marital settlements that position them well for the future. With our knowledge and resources, we will ensure that no form of property forgoes assessment, accurate valuation, and fair distribution during the division of assets process.
Our mission is to anticipate and prepare for any challenges that may arise during your divorce to achieve the best possible outcome.