Inheritances, Gifts, and Divorce

  •   |   Meghan Freed

Many people wonder whether and how Connecticut courts divide gifts and inheritances in divorces.  Connecticut is an “all property” property division divorce state.  That means that Connecticut courts can divide all of either spouse’s property in a divorce — including inheritances and gifts.

Read on to learn more about when and how Connecticut divorce courts divide gifts and inheritances between spouses.

Gifts, Inheritances, and Property Division in Divorce

Connecticut differs from many other states in the way that it handles property division. When spouses divorce, practically all property is subject to distribution.  This is because Connecticut is an “all property” state.  In other words, Connecticut doesn’t follow a separate vs marital property distinction.

Is a Gift or Inheritance an Asset that the Divorce Court Can Divide?

Many people think that any assets that they owned at the time that they got married, like gifts or inheritances, are separate property, and will not be divided in a divorce.  Connecticut courts have the authority to divide all property from any source acquired at any time.  In other words, in a dissolution of marriage, courts can divide inheritances and gifts received by either spouse.

Although the court may view an asset acquired prior to the marriage or one received by gift or inheritance differently than other assets in terms of how it is divided, it doesn’t mean the court will exclude it from property division entirely.

Read: What is an “All Property” Divorce State?

Are All Inheritances or Gifts Property Subject to Division in Divorce?

Interests in gifts or inheritances that are contingent on a future event outside the control of the party may not be considered property subject to division in a divorce.

For example, someone who named a spouse in their will that they could change their will at any time in the future.  Therefore, a potential inheritance isn’t property that a divorce court can divide.  And, the court cannot award a spouse a percentage of a potential future inheritance that the other spouse may or may not receive.

Read: What Happens to Trust in a Connecticut Divorce?

How Will the Divorce Court Divide Inheritances and Gifts?

In Connecticut divorces, how courts divide property is divided based upon “equitable distribution.”  In other words, Connecticut courts divide property equitably — which does not necessarily mean equally. The court looks at a series of factors to determine how to divide property.  A few of these factors tend to come into play more frequently when the divorce court has inheritances and gifts to divide. Read: What is Equitable DistributionRead: What Factors Are Considered When Dividing Property in a Connecticut Divorce?

Timing of Receipt

One factor is timing — or when the spouse acquired the asset.  If an asset was required recently, it is more likely that the spouse who received the asset will retain the majority of the asset.  On the other hand, if the asset was received early in the marriage, it is more likely that the court will divide it more evenly.

Contribution to Preservation or Appreciation in Value

Another factor is each spouse’s “contribution in the acquisition, preservation or appreciation in the value of their respective estates.”  If the other spouse helps preserve or enhance the recipient spouse’s gift or inheritance, the court is more likely to share the asset more evenly between the two.

Length of the Marriage & Divorce Division of Gifts & Inheritances

The length of the marriage can also be an important factor when it comes to gifts and inheritances.  For example, it is more likely that a spouse will retain more of an inherited asset in a short marriage than in a long marriage.

Spouses’ Total Available Assets

Finally, the spouses’ total assets available can tend to impact how gifts and inheritances are divided.  In other words, if the spouses have significant other assets that are being divided, it is more likely that a court will allow the recipient spouse to retain more of an inheritance.

The Comprehensive Connecticut Property Division Guide

How to divide property is one of the most important issues in divorces.  And, it’s one of the most confusing. There are no set formulas or rules on how property will be divided.  The good news is that creates tremendous flexibility for experienced divorce attorneys to craft an individualized approach.  In order to prepare to make solid and informed decisions, you need to understand how property division works.  Our Comprehensive Connecticut Property Division Guide tells you everything you need to know about property division in Connecticut. Read: Property Division: The Comprehensive Connecticut Guide

Next Steps

As you can tell, diving inheritances and gifts isn’t simple in Connecticut — which means there is a lot of opportunity for creative negotiations, strategy, and solutions. It’s important to have an experienced divorce attorney as your guide. Our first step at Freed Marcroft, the Goals & Planning Conference, is designed to get to the heart of your problem and unveil your true goals.  Then, we take those goals, analyze them along with the facts of your case, and present you with recommendations and options on how to move forward.

Schedule your Goals & Planning Conference today, or contact us here.  In the meantime, you may want to check out our Divorce Information and Facts for answers on other family law topics.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC