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Protecting an inheritance from marital property division

Pennsylvania couples who are planning to divorce may have questions about an inheritance that was received by either spouse. While the general rule for property division is that an inheritance is the separate property of the person who receives it, the result may be different in certain situations.

When an inheritance is received before a person gets married, it is considered separate property. The same is true when one spouse is the recipient of an inheritance during the marriage. However, if the spouse deposits the proceeds into a joint bank account and then uses the money to pay for family expenses, the immunity may be lost due to the commingling of marital and non-marital assets.

Another way in which a person's inheritance may be considered to be commingled is if the proceeds are used to make improvements to the marital home. If inheritance money has been commingled but the person never intended to share it, the burden of proof required to overcome the presumption that it is marital property will be quite high.

One way a person who receives an inheritance can better protect it is to draft an agreement to cover the situation. With such an agreement, the recipient may be better able to prove to the court that the inheritance was always intended to remain as separate property. A person may want to consult with a family law attorney about an inheritance along with other potential complex asset division issues. The attorney can often draft an agreement that may be likelier to be upheld as valid in the event of a subsequent rift in the relationship.

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