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Divorce and property division: Inheritance

When Massachusetts’s couples find themselves at the end of a marriage, one of the most debated subjects (besides child custody) is property division. Each partner likely feels they deserve the lion’s share of the assets for their contributions to the marriage. One asset that may come under some heat is that of inheritance.

To understand property division more fully, it is important to understand different forms of assets. Communal property is that which was acquired during the marriage. Separate property is that which was brought into the marriage by each partner. Communal property is typically subject to division, which separate is not. 

These classifications can quickly become blurred when it comes to inheritance. Generally, inherited assets are not considered communal, even if they were acquired during the marriage. But there are circumstances in which this is not the case. One of the most common is if the inheritance goes into a joint account and both spouses use it. Similarly, if the partner who received the inheritance allows the other to use it, both may be entitled to a portion.

Another common scenario is if both partners signed the inheritance filings. If so, both have a claim to the assets, regardless of whose relative passed them on. As such, it is important to check all paperwork to ensure the right party is listed on any deeds, inheritance forms, taxes, etc.

Obviously, inherited assets can complicate a divorce quickly. As such, it may be beneficial for you to speak with a family law attorney for further counsel on the matter. 

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