Is My Spouse Entitled to My Inheritance?

In News by YKF Law

You’ve seen a movie or read a book where a character finds out their long-lost relative, whom they had no idea existed, passes away and leaves all their assets and money to them. While life doesn’t work quite like the movies, some people have wealth in their families and eventually inherit it all, while others have a modest inheritance they receive.

It can be overwhelming to deal with an inheritance; there are legalities you need to follow, banks you need to contact, and assets you need to weed through. Whether you inherit a substantial amount of money or a smaller amount, there’s a lot to accomplish once you inherit it.

One of the questions many people have when they come across their inheritance is if their spouse is entitled to it. Continue reading to learn if spouses are entitled to an inheritance and what happens in particular scenarios like divorce.

Missouri Laws Regarding Inheritance

Generally speaking, an individual that comes into an inheritance is not required to share it with their spouse. To keep the estate separate from their marital funds, the spouse who receives the inheritance can open a bank account dedicated to that inheritance, with only their information on the account, not their spouse’s. 

What happens if the spouse who inherited the money passes away? Is the surviving spouse entitled to that money? That depends on a few factors: children, other close relatives, and whether or not the deceased spouse had a will.

Under Missouri law, if the deceased spouse has a will that satisfies state guidelines, their assets will be divided as they intended. So, if the deceased spouse leaves their inheritance to the surviving spouse or their descendants, it will be theirs. If the deceased spouse does not have a will, dividing their assets will be determined by intestate succession, which involves the state dividing assets among the deceased family members.

While this process seems straightforward, inheritances can get complicated when they involve divorce, prenups, and postnups.

Divorce and Inheritances

Assets and divorce can get a little sticky when it comes to inheritances. Generally speaking, marital property is anything that was obtained during the marriage and includes the following: money, vehicles, houses, insurance, pensions, and so on. Exceptions include property that was purchased before the matrimony, and in some cases, inheritances.

However, an inheritance may be considered marital property if the spouse who received it mixed those funds with marital funds. For example, if an inheritance is put in a shared bank account, it becomes marital property, and the courts will divide it among the two spouses during the divorce process in a way that is fair and equitable.

An inheritance will not be considered marital property if the spouse who received it kept the money in a separate bank account. Therefore, if that money wasn’t spent on their spouse or used to benefit the marital home, like new appliances or flooring, it’ll be considered individual property. 

Prenuptial and Inheritances

If you aren’t yet married and have received an inheritance or expect to receive one in the future that you want to protect, establishing a prenup before marriage is a great option. A prenup is a premarital contract signed by each spouse that outlines the rights each individual is entitled to in the event of death or divorce. Prenups protect assets, including past and future inheritances, from being divided by the courts in a certain way should the marriage end.

Postnuptial and Inheritances

Did you come into an inheritance after getting married and want to protect it? Or did you decide that after getting married you wished you’d established a prenup to shield a past inheritance? You’ll want to establish a postnuptial agreement. Just like a prenuptial agreement, a postnuptial agreement is a postmarital contract that outlines the rights each spouse is entitled to in the event of death or divorce. You can protect past and future inheritances with either.

If you want to protect your inheritance, the Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick, LLC can help. We’re dedicated to the practice of family law and can help guide you through the entire prenuptial or postnuptial agreement process. We can also help with any family law matter, keeping your best interests in mind. Our team is skilled in negotiation and litigation, handling family law matters from the most complex to the most straightforward.

Our office is located in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. In addition to our physical location, our firm’s family and divorce attorneys have practiced in Jackson, Clay, Cass, Lafayette, and Platte County, Missouri. Contact our family law firm today to schedule a consultation – we can meet in person or via Zoom.