How do courts handle inheritance in a Pennsylvania divorce?

Property division is often a point of contention and confusion during a divorce. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, meaning that courts base asset distribution on equity rather than equality.

Essentially, judges try to determine what is fair rather than automatically doing a 50-50 split. Property falls into one of two categories, separate and marital, with the former generally consisting of what each individual brought into the marriage and not being subject to division and the former consisting of any assets acquired during the union and being subject to division. It sounds simple, but there is the potential for complexity. One area that may get complicated is inheritance.

Inheritance usually counts as separate property

Because of this, courts generally do not include inheritance when distributing property. This applies whether the individual received the inheritance before or after the marriage. However, there are exceptions to this.

The status of inherited assets may change

Inheritance is separate property only as long as it remains distinct and apart from any shared finances. If a person places inherited money in a joint account or adds his or her spouse’s name to a title or deed, the property is now a marital asset. If an inherited asset accrues value or makes money during the marriage, the increase is also subject to division. The classification of inheritance may easily become complex.

In general, inheritance remains with the inheritor in the case of a divorce. However, depending on the circumstances, courts may view part of or the entirety of an inheritance as marital property and thus subject to division.


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