Understanding Inheritance And Divorce

California Inheritance Laws And Divorce

by Apr 2, 2021Divorce

California inheritance laws don’t come up often in the divorce process, but when they do they can have a big impact. The specific question of whether one spouse can claim rights to the other spouse’s inheritance falls under the process of division of assets.

Before talking about how California inheritance laws apply to the division of assets, couples will need to learn the difference between marital property and separate property. California is a state that uses community property laws, which means the division of property in a divorce usually results in a 50/50 split of all marital assets. But some types of property are exempt from this rule.

Is Inheritance Marital Property?

Even with California’s community property laws, an inheritance – received either before or during a marriage – is not typically considered marital property. California inheritance laws stipulate that an individual’s inheritance is usually considered separate property that belongs to the person who received it.

This means that during a divorce, the spouse who did not receive the inheritance cannot lay claim to it either in part or in whole.

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Comingling Of Inheritance

The only exception to the rule of treating an inheritance as separate property is in cases where couples have comingled the inheritance funds.

If the inheritance is deposited into a joint bank account, and then subsequently used for joint marital expenses, then it may lose its status as separate property. Even if the money is not deposited into a joint account, but is used for improving or purchasing a primary family residence, that may be enough for the money to be considered marital property.

Protecting An Inheritance During Divorce

If you are worried about protecting an inheritance during a divorce, the best thing you can do is to hire an experienced divorce attorney.

Inheritance laws can be convoluted and difficult to understand, especially in the context of a divorce. If you would like to know more about inheritance and divorce, contact our offices today to discuss your specific situation.


At Vonder Haar Law Offices, we offer every client a free phone consultation to discuss their unique situation and determine how we can help. To arrange a consultation, please fill out the adjacent form or call us at: (707) 529-3200.

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