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Inheritance and Divorce

Is Your Inheritance at Risk During Divorce?

Westport divorce lawyer protects your family wealth

If, during your marriage, you receive an inheritance from a family member or a bequest from anyone else, you might expect that it would be yours to keep should you get divorced. That expectation might be a reasonable one to hold in some states, but because Connecticut law applies the concept of equitable distribution, you would be way off the mark. In Connecticut, all assets received by either spouse during the course of a marriage are considered marital property and thus are subject to division in a divorce action. If you are concerned about preventing the loss of part of your inheritance, trust a Westport divorce attorney at Needle | Cuda to safeguard your rights. For decades, we have successfully litigated asset division to help our clients retain more of their wealth. We are prepared to fight for a truly equitable result in your case.

How Connecticut treats an inheritance during equitable distribution

Connecticut applies the concept of equitable distribution to property acquired during a marriage, which means that courts divide assets and debts in a manner that is fair but not necessarily equal. The courts rely on the Connecticut statutes to determine what is fair. Under Connecticut’s equitable distribution scheme, how an asset was acquired is a factor a court considers when determining what is fair. An inheritance received by one spouse may be regarded as an asset that will not be divided equally because neither party contributed to the acquisition of the inheritance

Connecticut law does not draw a hard line between separate property and marital property and has a broad definition of marital property. The Connecticut General Statutes explicitly state that “the Superior Court may assign to either spouse all or any part of the estate of the other spouse.”

The question is, what factors will a court consider in the determination of the division of an inheritance?

Factors that may affect a judge’s decision on dividing an inheritance

Connecticut law requires a judge conducting equitable distribution to consider a range of factors, including:

  1. The length of the marriage and the timing of the inheritance — If the inheritance was received in year 3 of a marriage and in year 20 the parties are getting a divorce, then due to the long length of time that has lapsed between the date of the inheritance and the divorce, there is a greater likelihood that the inheritance will be equally divided.
  2. Overall value of the marital estate — In the event the value of the inheritance is small in comparison to the value of the overall marital estate, there is a greater likelihood that the inheritance will remain with the spouse who received such inheritance. In the event the value of the inheritance makes up the bulk of the value of the marital estate, the likelihood is greater that the inheritance will be divided between the spouses.
  3. How the inheritance was used prior to the start of the divorce action — If the inheritance was used to support the needs of the family, there is a greater likelihood that the inheritance will be divided between the spouses. If the inheritance was never used and was kept in a segregated account, then the likelihood is greater that the inheritance will remain with the spouse who received the inheritance.
  4. What is the inheritance? — If the inheritance is a parcel of real estate, there are several facts that will make an impact. For example, how long has the real estate been in the family? Did the divorcing couple use marital funds to keep up, maintain or improve the property? How many people have title to the property (i.e. siblings, cousins)? Similar facts will impact the division, if any, of an inheritance of jewelry or fine art.

Ways to keep your inheritance after divorce in Connecticut

The best way to keep your inheritance after divorce is to protect it ahead of time. One method is to state in a prenuptial agreement that any future inheritance will be treated as separate property not subject to distribution. If you are already married, you can execute a postnuptial agreement including the same provision. You can also place the property in a family trust, with instructions for distribution in the event of divorce. A Westport divorce lawyer at our firm can explain the full range of options for fully protecting your inheritance.

Contact our knowledgeable Westport divorce lawyers to protect your inherited assets

Needle | Cuda helps divorce clients in lower Fairfield County and throughout Connecticut protect asset obtained via inheritance. Our reputable attorneys provide highly responsive service and effective representation focused on positive results. Please call 203-557-9500 or contact us online to schedule an appointment at our Westport office.

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