If you’ve received an inheritance from your family, you may be under the impression that the inheritance will be yours to keep, regardless of a divorce. However, while it’s true that most judges award separate property in a marriage to the party who originally owned or inherited it, this is not always the case. Here’s what you should know about property division laws in Massachusetts and whether your inheritance can be included in your MA divorce agreement—

Is Separate Property Up for Grabs During a Massachusetts Divorce?

During a Massachusetts divorce, property must be divided in a manner that is equitable—but  not necessarily equal. While most property that is acquired before the marriage or through gift or inheritance is considered separate property, a judge in a MA divorce reserves the right to divide any property in a marriage, including both marital and separate property. A judge may decide to divide separate property if doing so is just and fair. 

Note that even if your separate property isn’t divided, it may be considered when a court is making a determination about division of property. For example, the court may decide that because one party has a large amount of personal wealth, it makes good sense to award the other party more of the marital assets.

What Will a Judge Consider When Dividing Property in a Massachusetts Divorce Case?

As mentioned, a judge will normally only divide marital property in a divorce unless there is just cause to divide separate property—which means that it’s likely that your inheritance will be protected in your divorce. That being said, a judge must consider a variety of factors in making a property division determination, including each spouse’s:

  • Income
  • Earning capacity
  • Age
  • Liabilities and needs
  • Estate
  • Occupation
  • Opportunity to earn future income 

In addition to factors assigned to individual parties to the marriage, a judge must also consider the length of the marriage, each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, and the needs of any dependents. If there was any marital misconduct, this may also be considered.

How to Protect Your Inheritance During a Divorce

If you are concerned about protecting your inheritance in a divorce, the best thing you can do is to hire a skilled attorney who has experience in property division cases. Your attorney can advise you of the law, as well as represent you during settlement negotiations and litigation if your case goes to court.

Call the Law Office of Heather M. Ward Today

To learn more about whether your inheritance will be up for division in a divorce and how to best protect your assets during a divorce, reach out to the Law Office of Heather M. Ward directly. Attorney Heather M. Ward has years of experience representing clients who are going through a divorce and understands your situation and that you need a legal advocate. Call today at (617) 903-8955 or send our law office a message online to get started.