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Are Inheritance Monies Subject to Equitable Distribution?

I work daily with individuals concerned about division of assets during their divorce. Properly valuing a marital estate is key to fair division of property at the end of a marriage.

New York is an equitable distribution state, meaning without other agreement, a court makes property awards that equitably distribute assets and liabilities of the marital estate.  Equitable does not mean equal, and courts rely on a number of factors when dividing property—including marriage duration and relative household contributions of each party.

The marital estate includes assets and debt acquired during marriage, with exception of property held separately.  According to Domestic Relations Law 236 (B), separate property not subject to equitable distribution includes:

  • Property owned prior to marriage or received by bequest or gift from someone other than a spouse
  • Compensation received for personal injury
  • Property obtained in exchange for, or to increase value of, separate property—unless increased value was due to efforts of the other spouse
  • Assets and property subject to valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement

Despite protection afforded by law, oftentimes an inheritance or other separate property is commingled with the marital estate through jointly held accounts, acquisitions, and other expenditures.  Unless you hold an inheritance separately throughout a marriage—or investigators can clearly track its proceeds—it will be included within the estate for equitable division.

If you have an inheritance, hold it close—and hold it separately—or your legacy might be lost to divorce.

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Randy  S.  Margulis Attorney Photo
Randy S. Margulis
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As a Buffalo divorce lawyer for 25 years, I have devoted myself to solving the problems that affect families throughout the Buffalo metropolitan area and Western New York. As a family law attorney, I make it my goal to create a partnership of trust with my clients. People put their trust in me to handle cases that can potentially have a long-lasting impact on not only their lives, but the lives of their family as well.

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    Divorce is always an unpleasant event and my case was no exception, yet the guidance, professionalism and ethical strategy that Randy Margulis provided was essential in finding the best solutions for my children, my ex-wife and myself. As the proces...

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    Divorce is always an unpleasant event and my case was no exception, yet the guidance, professionalism and ethical strategy that Randy Margulis provided was essential in finding the best solutions for my children, my ex-wife and myself. As the proces...

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    Found Mr. Margulis to be a very organized and professional individual to work with. He is well-respected by his peers and is spoken of highly, I believe this helped with my divorce and made things go smoothly. I would highly recommend his services ...

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