Why does it matter if you share your inheritance with your spouse?

On Behalf of | Sep 1, 2023 | Divorce |

If you get an inheritance from your parents, your natural inclination may be to share it with your spouse. The two of you are a couple, so you may decide to use the money to retire, to buy a family home, to expand your shared business or something else of this nature. Maybe you just use it to travel the world together. 

If you stay married, this doesn’t matter and it’s very common. However, sharing an inheritance can become quite important if you get a divorce.

Commingling the inheritance

The thing to remember is that an inheritance is often viewed as one party’s separate asset – at least, initially. Your parents gave it to you directly. Your spouse does not automatically have a right to that inheritance if you get divorced. Even if you were married when you received it, it can still be classified as a separate asset. 

But sharing the inheritance is seen as commingling it. Basically, you are allowing your spouse to have access to it, and so it becomes a shared asset. It may have been a gift that was initially given to you, but you’ve made it clear that your spouse can also expect to benefit from that money. This is even true if you don’t spend it on shared assets, but simply keep it in a shared bank account or somewhere else where you both have access, like a retirement fund.

If the inheritance has been commingled, then you and your spouse may need to divide it in a divorce. The act of sharing it has changed its status and how it is viewed by the court. This can make your divorce more complex, so be sure you understand all of the legal steps you’ll need to take.