What Happens to My Inheritance During a Pennsylvania Divorce?

Last will and testament with pen and glasses concept for legal document
One of the biggest stresses of a divorce is trying to understand what becomes of assets you may be counting on. If one of those assets is a sizable inheritance from a family member, it’s only natural to want to protect it.
So how do Pennsylvania family courts handle inheritances?

Marital Property vs. Non-marital Property

To understand how the judge will handle your inheritance it helps to know the difference between marital property and non-marital property.
Marital property is everything you and your spouse accumulated during the course of your marriage. In general, non-marital property is anything you had before you got married. But an inheritance can be an exception. The key will be looking at how you handled your inheritance after you received it.

Most of Your Inheritance is Safe

As long as you did not deposit your inheritance into your joint bank account, the base amount is safe. For example, if you received $150,000, then the $150,000 is non-marital property.
But if you deposited that same $150,000 into an investment account the interest income earned is marital proprety. If you grew the $150,000 inheritance into an $160,000 asset, the $10,000 difference becomes one of the divisible assets.
Of course there are other, less straightforward ways to invest this asset. This is where things get complicated.
If you did put your inheritance into a joint account the entire $150,000 is now considered marital property. By placing the money in the joint account, you legally gave your spouse shared ownership of the money.

Other Considerations

What if you didn’t invest the inheritance, but spent it? What if you used it to pay marital debts, or to make repairs on your home? What if you even used the inheritance to buy the marital home?
Does this mean you’re entitled to a greater share of the assets, or that your spouse should get a greater share of the remaining debts?
Sadly, no: once you’ve used your inheritance to do any of these things, you convert it into marital property. The sole exception is if you bought the house and put it in your name alone. Then the equity in the house would remain non-marital proprety, just as if you’d put the money into an investment account. Growth in the house’s value is marital property, and may effect how the judge distributes other assets.

The Question of Inheritance is a Complex One

While these relatively straightforward answers may make the question seem simple, the truth is it’s just a small part of a much larger picture. The disposition of your inheritance could impact spousal support, for example, if it’s considered part of your income.
These complexities are the reason why you should always choose a good divorce attorney to help you navigate the many pitfalls of the process. If you haven’t chosen one yet, call our offices today. We’ll schedule a free consultation where you can walk us through your personal situation and get some answers.
Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

Free Case Evaluation