As you and your spouse work through the issues related to your divorce, you may be getting hung up on many aspects of asset division. This may be especially true if you have considerable wealth or complex assets. Numerous real estate properties, complicated investments or priceless art are only a few assets that can slow down your divorce while you go through valuation and negotiation. However, what about your spouse’s inheritance?

If your spouse came into money or property, you certainly want your fair share as part of the divorce settlement. Before you can claim a dime of it, it is important to examine when your spouse acquired the inheritance and what he or she did with it.

Factors influencing property division

According to Georgia law, property accumulated after your wedding is marital property and subject to division during a divorce. An inheritance, however, is a different story. If your spouse received an inheritance and the designation did not include your name, the inheritance belongs to your spouse who has no legal obligation to share it unless he or she does any of the following:

  • Places it into an account in both of your names
  • Uses it to fund joint investment ventures with you
  • Uses it to purchase, repair or maintain a dwelling you share
  • Enjoys an appreciation of the value of the inheritance because of your efforts

Each of these and other actions are examples of commingling. If your spouse has allowed his or her inheritance to become entangled in joint finances, the court will likely interpret that as your spouse’s intention to share the inheritance with you. If this is the case, you would have the right to seek the inclusion of the inheritance in the equitable division of marital property.

Inheritance before you met

The same precept holds true of an inheritance your spouse may have received prior to marrying you. If your spouse did not commingle the inheritance with your joint finances, the inheritance remains your spouse’s individual property. As long as those funds remain in an account or investment separate from you, the divorce will give you no claim, even to any interest or appreciation earned during the years you are married.

Of course, if you signed a prenuptial agreement relinquishing any claim to the inheritance, your chances of successfully challenging the exclusion of the inheritance may be small. However, with legal advice, especially that of a professional who is skilled in complex asset division, you will have a clearer idea of your options.