Can Your Husband Get Your Inheritance if It's in Your Name?

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An inheritance starts out as your own separate property.
An inheritance starts out as your own separate property. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Any inheritance you receive, either before you marry or after you marry, is your separate property. If you protect the inheritance, it remains yours. Your husband can’t make a claim for it if you ever divorce. But you have to be careful and take steps to preserve it as your separate property.

Inheritance Taxes

If you receive an inheritance and your husband can prove that his own income contributed to any taxes you paid on it, he may have a claim to it. In community property states, the same can happen even if you use your own income, because money you earn while you're married is considered community property there. In community property states, everything acquired during your marriage is owned by both of you jointly, including income received from employment or business. In all other states, your paycheck is your own, just as debts you take out in your own name are your sole responsibility. To be safe, pay the inheritance taxes from the inheritance itself. If that's not possible, speak with an attorney to find out if you can pay the taxes through your own income, or how you should do it without using marital money if you live in a community property state.

Improvements

If you inherit tangible property, such as real estate, and marital money goes into repairing or maintaining it, it can become community property and your husband might have a claim to it. If you rent out the property to tenants, establish a bank account in your separate name to accept the rent payments, then use that money toward the property's upkeep.

Joint Accounts

If you receive $100,000 by way of inheritance, and you deposit that money into an account in joint names with your husband, he becomes entitled to half of it. Even if you put the money in an account in your own name, anything you withdraw from that account and put toward a joint marital asset becomes marital property. For example, if you take $100,000 from the account in your sole name and put it into an account in joint names, then your husband is generally entitled to $50,000 of that money. This applies in the reverse as well. If you deposit any of your income or his income into an account holding your inheritance money, the account and your inheritance could become marital property, even if it's solely in your name.

Marital Spending

Any time you use money from your inheritance toward marital bills or spending, that money loses its status as your own separate property. However, this usually doesn't affect the money left in your inheritance account, only the money you withdrew to contribute to marital bills.

Tip

Most states have laws as to what is considered an inheritance for divorce purposes. If someone leaves money or assets to you only, and the deceased knew you were married, that money is usually considered your personal, separate property. It's even better, however, if the will clearly states that the bequest is being made to you alone.

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