My wife inherited money. Am I due part if we divorce?


Q. When I got married, we didn’t sign a prenup and later my wife inherited money from her parents in an IRA. We’re soon going to retire but I also think we’re not going to stay together long-term. I’m wondering if I am due part of the inheritance or not?
— Spouse

A. Inheritances can make a big difference to a couple’s finances.

But if you end your marriage, it probably won’t go the way you hope.

In New Jersey, gifts received from third parties and inheritances either party receives is not subject to equitable distribution, said Jeralyn Lawrence, a family law attorney with Lawrence Law in Watchung.

“As such, you would not be entitled to or receive any part of the inheritance. Assets subject to distribution and divided between spouses are those that are acquired by the parties during their marriage,” she said.

There is a caveat, though.

“Should one spouse receive an inheritance and then comingle it, that may lead to that asset being subjected to being divided but if the inheritance remains in a separate account, it will not be divided in the divorce,” she said.

Comingling would mean, for example, if the funds are put into an account that you both use. And if over time there are required distributions from the account that are used for your joint expenses, a court could decide you’re due a part of distributions going forward.

Before you make any moves, you should speak to a family law attorney who knows the specifics of your situation before you make any decisions.

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This story was originally published in May 2024. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.