Inheritance can be tricky and often a sensitive subject. People often feel entitled to what has been left behind to them by their parents, but the law in New York often causes a different outcome. Because married couples sometimes find it easier to have a lot of their assets shared, otherwise known as a marital assets, deciding who is entitled to these assets when a divorce takes place becomes much more complex than just looking at who inherited the asset.

With regard to assets such as estates, a home left to a spouse in the will of their parent, for instance an inheritance, is typically considered separate property which by definition is not subject to distribution in a divorce. However, the key here is that this property must be kept separate, as once this property becomes shared, i.e. if the non-inheriting spouse’s name is added to the will and becomes marital property, it is now subject to distribution.

If the non-inheriting spouse’s name is not on the deed, nor are they mentioned in the deceased parent’s will, it becomes much harder for that spouse to prove that they have a vested interest in the property, therefore making it unlikely that the court will find that they have some, if any, entitlement to the house.

However, one thing the court does take into effect is the duration of the marriage. If the marriage lasted 20 years, most of which the non-inheriting spouse was aware that they would inherit said property in the future, they may be able to stake a claim that they do in fact have an interest in the house.