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Property acquired during the marriage by either spouse by inheritance, bequest or devise remains the separate property of the spouse that acquired it. Thus, this property is not subject to equitable division. Bailey v. Bailey, 250 Ga. 15 (1982). However, if that property appreciates in value during the marriage and that appreciation in value is caused by the efforts of the other spouse, the appreciated value may be subject to equitable division. Halpern v. Halpern, 256 Ga. 636 (1987).
Additionally, inheritances may also be viewed by the court as marital property if those funds are commingled with other marital assets. In order for one spouse to ensure that his or her inheritance remains separate property not divisible upon divorce, that spouse must make sure that the inheritance is not blended with any other marital asset. For example, if wife inherited $150,000 from her father, and she kept that money in a separate deposit or investment account, bearing only her name, that inheritance would likely be viewed as her separate property upon divorce. However, if she deposited that inheritance in the account held jointly by her and her husband or if she used the money for some other joint or marital investment, the inheritance would likely be viewed as marital upon divorce. Because inheritances are treated as separate property belonging to the person who received the inheritance, those assets may not be divided between the parties in a divorce.
If you are considering marriage and anticipate receiving an inheritance, or if you have already received an inheritance or any other property that you would like to ensure remains your separate property upon divorce, consider executing a pre-nuptial agreement to make all issues regarding pre-marital or separate property perfectly clear prior to the marriage. For more information regarding pre-marital or pre-nuptial agreement, see our article entitled, “Pre-nuptial Agreements.”