Managing Spousal Inheritance Concepts in the Divorce Process in NJ
Divorce can be a difficult time for anyone since it involves the dissolution of a marriage and a major life change for everyone involved. Something similar can be said about the loss of a loved one, which can also have a profound effect on those who knew the person. Sometimes the end of a marriage and the loss of a loved one can be intertwined in another way: when one of the partners in the marriage inherited money or property from the deceased loved one. If you are going through a divorce, you may have questions about what will now happen to your inheritance. Do you get to keep it? Will you have to divide the inheritance with your soon-to-be-ex? Determining whether inherited property should be divided or not in your divorce requires the knowledge of a seasoned family & divorce lawyer. New Jersey has very specific laws about this sort of thing, which is why having a lawyer examine and protect your interests is essential. Contact Bronzino Law Firm for a free consultation with an attorney today. To learn more about inheritance in a New Jersey divorce case, keep reading.
Common Types of Inheritance in New Jersey
The division of assets is an important part of any divorce. After all, once the marriage is officially over and you and your spouse go your separate ways, your finances will no longer be commingled. You will essentially be on your own, financially speaking. That’s one reason it is so important that you take all the necessary steps to retain any money, property, or other assets that legally belong to you and you alone. Since this requires a solid understanding of both NJ inheritance laws and NJ family laws, you should definitely make sure to talk to a knowledgeable lawyer who has experience in both areas – particularly when it comes to inheritance during a divorce.
The most common types of inheritance include the following:
- Money: This is probably the most obvious type of inherited property since we tend to think of an inheritance as involving a large sum of cash.
- Real Property: If you inherit land or real estate, this is considered “real property” in the sense that it is fixed on land.
- Investments: This can include stocks, bonds, and retirement accounts.
- Physical Assets: Any physical asset that is inherited will have a monetary value attached to it, whether it’s a car, jewelry, artwork, or even a family heirloom.
Inherited Property in a NJ Divorce
If you are going through a divorce, you may be asking questions like, “Is my spouse entitled to property I inherited during the marriage?” and “Do I get to keep it completely?” The answers to these questions, and related questions about inherited property in a divorce, will hinge on one main question: is the property that you inherited considered “marital” or “separate”? This matters because marital property is shared by the spouses, whereas separate property belongs to each individual spouse and is therefore not likely to be divided in the event of a divorce.
Generally speaking, marital property refers to all assets that the spouses acquired after getting married. This can include assets acquired by one spouse, such as income that they earned from their job. On the other hand, separate property generally refers to assets that either spouse acquired prior to getting married. Additionally, certain assets acquired after the couple got married may also be classified as separate property, and this is usually where inheritance becomes an issue.
What Happens to Property & Assets in a Divorce?
Any property or assets belonging to one spouse, or to both spouses will likely be scrutinized during divorce proceedings because the court will need to determine how to best divide the couple’s assets. In fact, before this happens, the parties to the divorce will actually need to classify all property, assets, and debts as being either marital property or separate property. If there is any dispute by the spouses about how a particular asset should be classified, then the court may need to intervene and issue a ruling. This entire process is known as equitable distribution, and it basically means that any assets that the spouses shared during the marriage should be fairly divided after the marriage. However, only property and assets that were considered “marital property” during the marriage will be subject to equitable distribution in a divorce, while property and assets classified as “separate property” will probably remain separate.
Under New Jersey law, inherited property is not typically part of the process by which assets are divided in a divorce. That’s because N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 stipulates that any property acquired during a marriage “by way of gift, devise, or intestate succession” is not part of equitable distribution when the partners get divorced. Everyone has a pretty good understanding of what is meant by “gift,” but the legal meaning of the terms “devise” and “intestate succession” might be unclear. “Devise” is a particular form of gifting through a person’s last will and testament. “Intestate succession” means the passing of property from a deceased person’s estate to another person when the deceased person died without providing a last will and testament. Whether you inherited property through someone naming you in a will (e.g., your uncle declared that you would receive his car when he passed away) or through intestate succession (e.g., your last living parent passed away without a will), the inheritance is likely to be considered separate property in the divorce.
Inheritance Issues When Separate Property Becomes Marital Property
One caveat to the rule that inherited property will not be divided and shared by the spouses after a divorce is when an inheritance starts out as separate property and later becomes marital property. This can happen when the inherited property is commingled with other assets, or it can happen when the other spouse’s name is added to the title of the inherited property later through a legal action. For example, let’s say that you inherited $50,000 from a relative, and you subsequently deposited those funds into a joint bank account that you share with your spouse. Later, you and your spouse used that money to invest together in real estate or some other venture. There will now be some doubt about whether the original inheritance of $50,000 is still considered “separate property” at the time of your divorce. The bottom line is that inheritance can become marital property.
Review Your Case with Inheritance & Divorce Lawyers in Brick, NJ
Dealing with divorce and financial issues all at once is not a good combination. If, on top of that, you need to figure out deadlines, financial status, documents, and a variety of processes, things can be overwhelming. That is why you need to speak with an experienced divorce lawyer about your case and ensure that your assets are secured in the event of marital dissolution.
At Bronzino Law Firm, you find the advice and guidance you need to fully understand how inheritance can be handled in the middle of a divorce process. We know how confusing these times can get, and we are prepared to help you carry your burden. There is a lot of information out there that needs to be appropriately decoded for you by our team of lawyers. We have previously helped clients regarding divorce and inheritance issues in Toms River, Freehold, Lacey, Eagleswood, Bay Head, Jackson, Howell, Point Pleasant, Manalapan, and towns in Ocean and Monmouth Counties.
If you have any questions about your divorce and inheritance case, contact our offices for a free and confidential consultation by calling (732) 812-3102 or filling out our online contact form, and you will hear from us shortly.