Your family has your best interests in mind when they leave you an inheritance. Inheritances are meant to distribute and maintain wealth in the family and so when a couple divorces, it can be difficult to know who has a right to what when it comes to inheritances. It also can be worrisome to think about losing what your family sought to provide you.

What happens to an inheritance in a divorce will depend on if it is separate or community property (i.e. property of the marital community).

A lot of this can be determined by looking at the language in the will that documents the terms of the inheritance:

  • If your family names you and only you in their will, then whatever you inherit as part of that will is your separate property.
  • If you inherited property during your marriage that you believe was separate property, but then used it for community purposes, such as a down payment on a house, you converted it to a community asset.

It also matters whether or not when you took this property into your possession. If you inherited real property, like a house, but then took action to have your spouse put on the deed, then it may not be clear cut who has a right to what.

Part or all of the value may be considered a mix of separate and community property, also called comingled property. Generally, if you convert property to community property by doing something like putting your spouse on the deed, they then have an interest in it in a divorce and thus will receive at least some share of the value.

In these complex cases, it is best to hire an attorney with experience in complex property division to ensure you walk away with all the assets you are entitled to. Protecting your family’s assets as well as your own are both important and will be best handled by an experienced family law attorney. Property division is one of the most complex areas of a divorce and when a lot of assets or a lot of mixed property is involved, your financial viability may be compromised if you take the wrong step.

Are you in the Los Angeles area and have questions about inheritances? Certified Family Law Specialist Mark H. Karney has experience representing high net-worth individuals and handling complex divorces in Los Angeles County. Serving the Los Angeles and Beverley Hills area, Mark H. Karney offers efficient and tenacious legal counsel. Call our office at 310-622-9434; email us at or contact us through our online form today to schedule a free consultation.