In divorce proceedings the Courts divide property under an “equitable division” of assets standard, utilizing various factors outlined by statute, specifically M.G.L. Chapter 208, Section 34. Inheritances received by either spouse are generally viewed differently by the Courts in connection with a division of assets, as opposed to assets acquired by the parties through their marital partnership.
To the extent that the marriage is one of short duration (1 to 5 years), the party receiving the inheritance will generally keep their inheritance as his/her sole and separate property. In longer term marriages, the Courts will look to see when the inheritance was received and further as to whether the inheritance was woven into the fabric of the marriage. To the extent that the inheritance came in at the end of the marriage, and was not relied upon by the parties for to meet the parties’ financial needs, there is a stronger likelihood that the Court would divide the inheritance on a disproportionate basis, awarding the other party less than 50%, or in some cases even excluding the inheritance entirely from the marital estate, thereby allowing the recipient to keep his/her entire inheritance as his/her sole and separate property.
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