Legal Question in Family Law in California

inheritance while married


I have been married for over four years in California. I have now gotten some inheritance in the form of cash from overseas. How can I protect or claim that money as my own?

Is inheritance considered a community asset?

Thank you,


Asked on 7/21/03, 7:44 pm

4 Answers from Attorneys

H.M. Torrey The Law Offices of H.M. Torrey

Re: inheritance while married

typically, according to california community property laws, inheritances remain the separate property of the spouse who actually received the inheritance. however, you definitely want to make sure your conduct thereafter does not transmute the inheritance into a community property asset, i.e. commingling, implied gifts, etc..

feel free to email directly with further legal assistance in this matter if need be.

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Answered on 7/21/03, 7:47 pm

Wayne Wisong Wayne Wisong, Attorney at Law

Re: inheritance while married

No. Inheritances under all but the rarest circumstances are separate property. Take it, put it in your own name, don't commingle any community in that account, and tell your spouse its all yours and hands off.

You can e-mail me at [email protected]

Although I practice in Georgia, your question was referred to me because I am also a member of the California Bar.

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Answered on 7/21/03, 7:48 pm
Brian Levy, Esq. Law Office of Brian Don Levy

Reply: inheritance while married

An inheritance starts off as your separate property. I would open a new bank account and put the money directly into that account. I would not comingle it with monies earned during the marriage. Keep it separate!

You will find some valuable information on various family law issues at my web site.

Good luck to you!

Brian Levy, Esq.

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Answered on 7/21/03, 8:25 pm
Patrick McCrary Law Office Of Patrick L. McCrary

Re: inheritance while married

You can, of course, keep the money in a separate account. However, if you want to use the money to buy a house or some other item, the house would be community property, but you would have a right to reimbursement, without accruing interest, of the separate property funds that were used to purchase the property. For example, if you use $50,000 to purchase a $200,000 home and the home appreciates to $300,000, upon sale you would get your $50,000 and the community splits the remainder of the equity. If, however, you have a loan of $150,000 and the property depreciates to $180,000 you would get back only the equity in the property, or $30,000 (forgetting about real estate commissions).

You can, of course, tell your wife "hands off", however, if you do that you may wish to bookmark LAWGURU.COM as you are likely to need to find a good lawyer in the near future. Most spouses are understanding of separate property and the matter can be handled more gently than that. Be prudent, but don't let your desire to control your money control you.

I hope that this has provided you with some practical information.

Good Luck, Pat McCrary

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Answered on 7/22/03, 10:07 am

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