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How is an inheritance divided in a divorce?

Dear Lawyer Mark:

Me and my wife own a piece of property; the deed has always been in our names.

We sold it on a land contract to our son, but he quit paying on it and it came back to us. The question is — somebody put a lien against the property while he was paying on it.

If I ever sold it, would I be responsible for the lien? The lien was against him only, not me and my wife.

— WONDERING IN THE COUNTY

Dear Wondering:

The lien that was put on against your son was actually against him, not the property.

Because your son was purchasing the property on a land contract, he did not have an ownership interest in it; he only had what is considered to be an “equitable interest.”

In other words, your son would not have owned the property until he had fulfilled all his terms under the land contract and a deed had been made to him. Because he lost his interest in the land by not performing under the contract, and the land was never deeded to him, the lien could not have attached to the property.

Dear Lawyer Mark:

I was wondering whether an inheritance that your spouse received is divided in a divorce.

My spouse and I have been having problems lately, and I have been considering getting a divorce.

I want to look at the situation I’m in from all points of view, and the inheritance question could have an impact on my decision. Thank you for your advice.

— NO NAME, NO PLACE

Dear No Name:

As with many questions that I receive, the answer to yours is …maybe.

According to Ohio law, a spouse is entitled to keep what is considered to be “separate property.” Under the statutes, an inheritance by one spouse is considered to be separate property.

However, you should be aware that it is possible for separate property to become marital property (and thus subject to division by the courts) if it is commingled with marital property to the point that it is untraceable.

In addition, income received from investing an inheritance could be considered marital property.

I would highly recommend that you speak to an attorney about your case, as the law in this area can turn on the facts of each case.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: One who marries for money instead of love often finds himself with neither. – Old Proverb

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at LawyerMark@yahoo.com. The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.