Do I Have to Share My Inheritance with My Husband?

By Laura Payet

Do I Have to Share My Inheritance with My Husband?

By Laura Payet

Although the default rule is that anything either spouse earns during marriage becomes shared marital property, this rule doesn't apply to inheritances. Whether you received your inheritance before or during your marriage, it is yours to do with as you please. You have no legal obligation to share it with your husband. However, you can convert your inheritance into marital property and give your husband a claim to it by failing to keep it separate from other marital assets.

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Marital Property Division During Divorce

Whether or not your inheritance is considered marital property becomes relevant should you divorce. In most states, the courts view marital property as being subject to equitable division, meaning the assets are allocated between spouses in a just and fair manner. Each spouse has an equitable claim on all the marital property, but the shares each receives may not be precisely equal.

The remaining states refer to marital property as community property. In these states, each spouse owns an equal share of their assets, which are distributed equally between them upon divorce.

Whether you live in an equitable division state or a community property state, your inheritance is considered your separate property. This means that if you and your spouse split up, he would not have a legal claim to any part of it—unless you converted it into marital property. In that case, he would be entitled to either an equitable or an equal share, depending on the state.

Changing Separate Property into Marital Property

If separate property, such as an inheritance, is combined with or used to benefit marital assets, it becomes marital or community property. This process is called transmutation and it can happen in a variety of ways. In the event you divorce and your husband claims to be entitled to part of your inheritance, you would have to prove that you had kept it separate and had no intent to share it with him.

If, for example, you inherit cash and deposit it in a joint account that you share with your husband, you have commingled it and it becomes marital property. The same is true for investment accounts. If you keep inherited cash in a separate account but use it for marital expenses, such as paying the mortgage on your family home, that would also likely give your spouse a claim on it. As another example, if you were to sell inherited stock to pay for a family vacation cruise, that might show that you intended to share your inheritance with your husband.

What if you inherit real estate? If you and your husband live together in a house that you inherited from your parents and you add his name to the deed, you have converted the house to marital property. If you don't live in the house and you keep it in your name alone but your husband makes repairs to it on weekends and you use marital funds to update or remodel it, it becomes marital property. Remember that any salary you earn from employment while you are married is marital property, so even if you pay for the remodel from your salary alone, you are paying for it with marital funds.

Your inheritance belongs to you, and you do not need to share it with your husband. However, if you do share it, even inadvertently, your husband may have a claim to it should you separate in the future. If you have questions about how to protect it or if you are already facing or contemplating divorce, you may want to consult an attorney or seek assistance from an online service provider.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.