If I’m married but separated, could my wife put a claim on any inheritancethat Imight get from my parents?

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If I’m married but separated, could my wife put a claim on any inheritancethat Imight get from my parents?

I’m married but we have not lived together for 10 plus years.

Asked on November 10, 2010 under Family Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Probably not outright.  However, if you have joint debts or if your spouse has incurred medical bills*, then your inheritance could be at risk.  Other than that, MA is an "equitable distribution state".  This means that all property acquired during the marriage is generally "marital property".  In a divorce, however, all property is divided into "marital property" (which means it is both yours and your spouse's) and "non-marital property" (which means the property belongs to either you or your spouse alone). In general an a inheritance is considered to be a non-marital asset.  If you have a separtion agreement, its terms will control.

However, since she is still your legal wife, she will have rights to your estate if you should pre-decease her.  It might be time to consider divorce (or at least a legal separation if you don't already have one).

*   Massachusetts law explicitly holds a surviving spouse is responsible for the medical debt of the deceased spouse under what is known as the "doctrine of necessities."

 


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