Q: Can an inherited property be brought to the table in the division of assets in the state of Massachusetts?

A:

Inherited property questions, as many, are decided when looking at the facts and circumstances surrounding the property, the inheritance and the status of the property since it was inherited.   I think that the Courts make effort to leave inheritance within the family from which it flowed (ie from father to son), and not to divide inheritance in divorce, provided that the facts lend themselves to show that the inheritance is not marital property.

For example, husband’s mother left him a house as an inheritance that was sold about a year after her death (and at year #5 of his marriage).  Husband put those funds into an individual money market account and has not touched them since the deposit.  Now, ten years later, the parties are divorcing and wife seeks to take 50% of that account because he earned it during the marriage.   In this case, where husband segregated the funds, and did not use them at all during the course of the marriage, I think most Courts would find the argument that husband is entitled to the funds as his individual property a persuasive one.

Revise the above example to say that husband deposited the funds into an individual money market account and paid for a new roof for the marital home in year 2 after the inheritance, a family vacation in year 4 after the inheritance and an addition to the marital home in year 7 after the inheritance.  Here, in my opinion, wife has a better argument that the funds were used for the family, and in the course of the marriage, and that they are marital property.  This likely is not going to warrant an equal division situation (50/50), but wife may be able in this scenario to convince a Court to award her at least some of the account.

 

Revise the example again to say that husband deposited the funds into a joint money market account and the monies were used regularly for household expenses (new water heater, roof, etc.), family vacations, etc. throughout the years post-inheritance until the filing of divorce. Here is wife’s best set of circumstances to argue that these funds are marital property and that she is entitled to a large share of these funds.  This could possibly be a situation where wife argues that this inheritance was meant to be joint and that the facts and circumstances demonstrate as much (with spending throughout the marriage, etc.).

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