As part of the job as a divorce attorney, I am responsible for delving into my clients financials in detail. When a client informs me that he or she has received or stands to receive an inheritance, the first question from him or her is always "can my soon to be ex take part of it?" As a rule of thumb, if you are left an inheritance (in your name only), it is not considered to be marital property and is not subject to be divided by the Court. It does not matter whether you received the inheritance during the marriage or if you only stand to receive it sometime down the road.
However, if you choose to combine (co-mingle), the inheritance with your every-day marital assets, the inheritance may then be subject to division by the Court. Additionally, if you choose to use the inheritance money to benefit you and your spouse by buying items or property with the funds, said purchases are marital regardless of the fact that the money used came from the inheritance. Therefore, the most important thing to remember when deciding how to handle an inheritance, is to keep the funds in a completely separate account and not co-mingle them with marital money.
Unfortunately, the issue isn't always so simple. For instance, what happens with the interest accumulated on the inheritance while you are married? How does the law treat inheritances of real property? If you are contemplating divorce and know that your or your spouse's inheritance is going to be an issue, it is important to contact an experienced divorce attorney as the implications can be complicated.