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Can I keep my inheritance in divorce?

When you married your spouse 10 years ago, you were excited to share a long future together. But now, a decade later, the strain of you both having high-powered jobs and a young child have taken a toll. You’re considering a divorce.

One of your biggest concerns about seeking a divorce is how it will impact your finances. You received a half-million-dollar inheritance last year and you wonder if you will have to give your spouse a share of that money.

Dividing assets in divorce

First, you need to understand how New York divides assets in divorce. New York uses equitable property division in divorce. Couples don’t necessarily split marital assets 50-50, but rather in a fair and equitable manner.

When it comes to inheritance assets, New York considers inheritance separate property, not subject to equitable property division. However, you need to be careful to keep your inheritance separate property if you want to avoid splitting it in divorce. One way an inheritance can become marital property is if you used the money to buy a home and your spouse have contributed toward its mortgage, upkeep or renovation.

Keeping an inheritance as separate property

Some of the best ways to keep an inheritance separate property after you’re married are the following:

  • Getting a postnuptial agreement that addresses that you will receive all the inheritance upon divorce.
  • Putting your inheritance into a trust, to benefit your child.
  • Not using your inheritance to benefit the marriage, such as paying off your spouse’s student loans or credit card debts.
  • Not putting your spouse on the title of a home you buy with the inheritance money and not allowing your spouse to contribute toward its upkeep costs.

When you and your spouses have a lot of assets to divide in divorce, you should consult an attorney who knows how to handle complex, high-asset divorces. You want an attorney who can help you ensure all your assets are documented properly and you receive your equitable share in your divorce.