Long Island Lawyers Advise on the Impact of Divorce on an Inheritance

Hauppauge and Garden City firm assists recipients of substantial bequests

Final wishes of decedents should be respected. However, there are situations where assets that are left to one individual spouse could be diverted to their husband or wife if the marriage ends. At Tabat, Cohen, Blum, Yovino & Diesa, PC in Garden City and Hauppauge, we help people who seek guidance on protecting an inheritance from divorce in New York. Our knowledgeable Long Island family lawyers offer counsel before and during the marriage dissolution process in an effort to secure funds, real estate and other types of bequests.

How New York treats an inheritance in divorce

As an inheritance left to one spouse is considered separate property regardless of when it occurs. The question of whether the couple was married or not at the time the assets were transferred typically does not matter. However, monetary bequests that are deposited into joint accounts, real estate where both spouses share title and other types of inherited property shared by the spouses might fall into the category of assets that are to be divided among the spouses when a divorce occurs.

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

Many breakups where a significant inheritance is at stake also involve other types of challenges associated with complex divorces. Should assets that were bequeathed to one party qualify as marital property, a judge will look at various factors during their equitable distribution analysis, including the earning ability of the parties, the effect of custody and alimony orders on the spouses and each party’s contributions to the marriage.

How to protect an inheritance from divorce

There are numerous ways to keep an inheritance separate so that it does not fall into the marital estate, but you should take the initiative to protect your interests. Ways you might do this include:

  • Creating a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that specifically names an inheritance as separate property
  • Preserving documents detailing the exact value received in an inheritance
  • Maintaining a separate account for funds received as an heir
  • Placing proceeds from someone’s will into a trust
  • Choosing not to add your spouse to the title of a real estate bequest

Our Long Island divorce attorneys work diligently to help clients keep what is rightfully theirs and to find creative solutions to conflicts that are blocking a settlement.

Timing of inheritance and divorce

Proceeds of bequests made several years before the divorce might have been co-mingled with marital assets. If this occurs, the proceeds from an inheritance might end up being divisible when the spouses part ways. If you have recently received property from a loved one’s will, we can help explain how to keep separate assets out of the marital estate.

Does inheritance affect alimony?

Alimony orders can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances. In certain instances, a large inheritance might qualify. When a client making maintenance payments receives a substantial amount from the will of a deceased loved one, we offer honest counsel about how a court might rule on a modification petition and oppose recipient ex-spouses who try to exploit the situation unfairly. Likewise, an alimony recipient who receives a substantial inheritance might find their maintenance amount reduced or eliminated entirely based on their lack of need.

Contact an Long Island attorney to discuss how divorce affects your inheritance     

Tabat, Cohen, Blum, Yovino & Diesa, PC provides comprehensive counsel to Long Island residents on a full range of divorce issues, including the treatment of assets received through inheritance. To make an appointment for a consultation at our Garden City or Hauppauge office, please call 631-587-5100 or contact us online.

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    Hauppauge, New York 11788

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