How Does Inheritance Factor Into Asset Division After a Divorce in North Carolina?

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About Asset Division in North Carolina

If you are getting divorced in North Carolina, you may have questions regarding who has the right to claim an inheritance. Does your spouse have the legal right to claim a share of inheritance that was left to you? Can you claim inheritance that was left to your spouse? Here, our North Carolina divorce lawyers explain how inheritance is divided after a divorce in our state.

The Big Question: Is the Inheritance a Marital Asset?

North Carolina is an equitable distribution jurisdiction (North Carolina General Statutes § 50-20). Under state law, marital property is split up in an equitable manner, and equal is often assumed to be equitable. However, each spouse will retain their ‘non-marital assets’. Assets that are held separately from the marriage will not be divided in a divorce.

In determining how property will be divided, the first question you must ask yourself is whether or not the property a marital asset? In North Carolina, inheritance is generally not a marital asset. This means that inheritance — even if the gift was bequeathed during the marriage — can avoid the asset division process. A spouse who has received inheritance may be able to keep all of it as an individual asset.

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Asset Division and Inheritance: There are Major Exceptions

While inheritance is generally assumed to be a non-marital asset, there are some major exceptions to that rule. First, there may be questions over whether or not the inheritance was actually left to the ‘couple’ as opposed to being left to an individual. An inheritance that was bequeathed to the marriage as a whole will likely be deemed a marital asset. That means that it will be subject to the state’s equitable distribution rules.

In addition to that exception, inheritance can ‘transmute’ from a non-marital asset to a marital asset based on the actions of the receiving spouse. For example, if one spouse receives $20,000 in inheritance individually, and then they deposit that money into a joint account and commingle the funds, that inheritance may become marital property. To keep inheritance from being divided in divorce, it should clearly be kept separately.

The Bottom Line: Inheritance is Often Non Marital Property, But Actions Matter

Dealing with inheritance and divorce can be complex and confusing. While North Carolina law allows a person to keep their inheritance as individual property, inheritance can become marital property if proactive measures are not taken to ensure that the inheritance is kept separately. It is strongly recommended that you consult with an experienced North Carolina asset division lawyer immediately if you:

  • Are going through a divorce
  • You want to protect your inheritance
  • You believe that you have a legal right to claim a share of your spouse’s inheritance

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Contact Our North Carolina Divorce Attorneys Today

At Speaks Family Law, our North Carolina divorce lawyers have extensive experience handling the full range of family law issues, including complex property division cases. If you are going through a divorce and you have questions about inheritance, we are here to help. For a private divorce consultation, please contact our Wilmington, NC law office today.