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Can I Lose My Inheritance in a Divorce?


Divorce is an incredibly stressful experience. On one hand, it can bring about severe emotional distress, leading people into deep mental health woes for which they need treatment. On another hand, it carries many practice concerns, often revolving around money and property.

It’s often confusing, trying to decipher which property you can keep and which you will lose. Some property is very personal, and losing it can be as impactful as losing the marriage itself. This is often true with inherited property. Someone you love passed, and they entrusted you with their property after death. This property becomes more than just a thing. It represents your connection to your lost loved one.

When you feel so connected to your inherited property, it’s only natural that you will want to keep it after the divorce. In this article, we will explore how inherited property works in a marriage, and we will offer examples of when you may be in danger of losing it.

Inherited Property Is Generally Separate

When courts divide property, they focus only on marital assets. This is property that was purchased during your marriage. When either party buys something, it technically belongs to both spouses. That’s why courts must get involved to decide which party should walk away with which asset.

Separate property comes from outside the marriage. It includes any property you owned before the wedding, gifts from people outside the marriage, and inherited property.

If you inherited something from a loved one. It should remain yours alone. Unless the deceased also named your spouse in the will, the law assumes that the property was intended only for you. It should, therefore, not be up for debate in your divorce.

There are, however, occasions where a spouse could lay claim to your inherited property.

When Could You Lose Your Inheritance in a Divorce?

Whenever either spouse contributes to property, they may be able to claim partial ownership of that property. Imagine you inherited a plot of land. You decide to build a guest home on it. You and your spouse work on this home together, designing it, hiring the builders, and so on.

Iowa, along with most U.S. states, uses an equitable property division model in a divorce. This system gives property to spouses based on fairness Contribution is one of the criteria it uses to determine that fairness.

Even though inherited property should be separate, your spouse’s contribution to that property can make it “commingled,” meaning that they can make a valid claim for at least part of that property in a divorce.

Fighting for Your Commingled Property

If your inherited property becomes commingled, you must make a strong case for why you should remain its sole owner. Commingled property assumes that your spouse already contributed to that asset, so you must take on that fact directly. Perhaps you could prove that the contribution was minimal, and the property truly should belong to you.

Furthermore, you can argue that regardless of any contributions they did make, they also inhibited the property in some way. Perhaps they damaged or mismanaged it, causing it to lose its value. Maybe they hindered your ability to improve the property further, or they continually discouraged your use of it and constantly bothered you to get rid of it.

Work closely with your attorney, and you may be able to keep your inheritance, even if your spouse has some claim to it.

If you’re concerned about losing your inheritance in a divorce, we can help. Call us today at (515) 200-7571 for a free consultation. You can also reach us online.