A common question from spouses considering divorce is whether an inheritance acquired before or during the marriage is part of the marital estate. These bequests can muddy the waters of marital property, particularly in high net worth families where substantial assets might be transferred from one generation to the next.
At the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis in Williamsville and downtown Buffalo, we are committed to tackling complex cases that require an experienced attorney who can help distinguish inherited assets from comingled property to protect your interests.
New York is an equitable distribution state, which means that if spouses cannot agree on property division during a divorce, a judge reviews the marital estate with the goal of giving each party a fair, though not necessarily equal, share. This approach takes into account numerous factors, including the length of the marriage and the contribution of each spouse to the household, childcare, and finances.
Inheritances given to one individual spouse are considered separate from the marital estate, regardless of whether they occurred before or during the marriage. However, couples often comingle inheritance funds by putting them toward other assets or investments, such as a home purchase or jointly held brokerage account. Once those funds are placed into the mix of marital property, it can be difficult to show to a court what derives from the inheritance and what is part of a couple’s shared assets, particularly in divorces of high net worth couples with complex financial holdings.
One important factor that will affect whether an inheritance is considered separate property is whether the parties entered into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that includes language about an existing or expected inheritance. If a prenuptial agreement is in place setting forth clear terms regarding inherited assets and commingling, we will advise if you can expect that it will be enforced. Still, if the spouse who received an inheritance did not maintain sole ownership of the inherited assets, it is possible that even with a prenuptial agreement a court could decide that all or part of the inheritance is marital property and should be part of the asset division equation. An experienced family law attorney who has handled disputes over the effect of prenuptial agreements on inherited funds can provide valuable counsel.
Call the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis today at 716-886-9600 or contact our firm online to schedule an initial consultation regarding the classification of inherited assets and other key issues in your divorce. From our offices in Williamsville and downtown Buffalo, we represent clients living throughout Western New York.
As a Buffalo divorce lawyer for 28 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.
Alexandra M. Rockwood is a Senior Associate Attorney with the Law Offices of Randy S. Margulis & Associates and has been with the firm since early 2020. She primarily practices in the areas of matrimonial and family law, including divorce, child custody, and child support. Alexandra is a practicing matrimonial and family law attorney as…