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Is an Inheritance Considered Marital Property in Pennsylvania?

If you’ve received an inheritance, it may seem natural to want to share it with those you love. However, if you live in Pennsylvania and are considering divorce, there are certain steps you should take to ensure your inheritance isn’t considered part of the marital estate.

Pennsylvania law makes a clear distinction between nonmarital and marital assets. Typically, marital assets are those assets acquired during a marriage. In a divorce, these assets will be divided according to the state’s equitable distribution standard. Courts use this standard to divide assets in a way that is fair though not necessarily equal. Nonmarital assets, on the other hand, are assets acquired by a single spouse prior to the marriage or following the date of separation but before finalization of the divorce. Marital assets are subject to equitable division in a divorce; nonmarital assets aren’t. Inheritances, however, aren’t so easily categorized.

If a spouse acquired an inheritance, even during a marriage, this asset is considered separate from a marital or nonmarital asset. Pennsylvania divorce law considers an inheritance a nonmarital asset only if the funds are kept in a separate account and are not used to purchase jointly owned property.

Other factors can further complicate the handling of inheritance in a divorce. For instance, an increase in the funds or value of an inheritance in a bank account with growing interest throughout a marriage will be considered marital property, so the increased value will therefore be subject to equitable division in divorce despite the original inheritance being a nonmarital asset.

One of the best ways to protect an inheritance in the event of a separation or divorce is to open a separate account under your name only. If at any time the funds are put into a joint bank account or go toward a purchase under joint names, the inheritance could then be considered marital property, subject to equitable distribution. If the inheritance includes certain valuable items or property in addition to funds, the recipient of the inheritance should ensure that the paperwork associated with the property lists it under their name only. Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements that specify how inheritances are to be handled in the event of a divorce can provide further protection. An experienced family lawyer can help you protect an inheritance that was meant solely for you.

To make sure your assets are fairly divided in the divorce process, work with the family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Jennifer Courtney & Associates, P.C. in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Call 215.493.3360 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.

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