Does an inheritance by one party become community property in a divorce settlement?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Does an inheritance by one party become community property in a divorce settlement?

We have 1 heir, a married son who has no children. Given divorce statistics, there is at least a 50/50 chance that he will divorce at some time. If we leave our estate to him, will it become community property should he divorce?

Asked on May 30, 2019 under Family Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

The inheritance remains "separate" property so long as it is kept separate. If inherited money is put in a joint account, or if a spouse is put on the title of an inherited home or vehicle, or if inherited money or other assets is used to purchase something for family use (e.g. a vacation house), etc., that "comingling" of assets turns the formerly separate inheritance into community property. Your son would need to make sure he keeps anything he inherits 100% separate (e.g. in a separate, his name-only-bank account; don't put his spouse on a deed; etc.) from his spouse or family. This doesn't mean that his spouse or children, etc. can't use/stay at/etc. any real estate inherited--but ownership need to remain 100% his. And he can obviously  use inherited money for the family if he wants--but he should leave the funds in a separate account and only take out or spend what he intends to take out or spend for the family.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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