If you’re thinking about a divorce, you probably have dozens of questions buzzing around in your mind. One of the most common questions family law attorneys get is how the courts handle inheritances in the case of a split. For instance, let’s say that during your marriage, your Uncle Joe dies and leaves you $50,000 in his will. In all likelihood, Joe meant to give that money to you (and only you). So, it would stand to reason that in a divorce you would keep that cash, right?

In principle, inheritances are considered separate property and not community property. But there are situations that can make the process of identifying separate property difficult. One such situation involves a concept called “commingling.” In the scenario above, let’s say you put that money into a bank account that’s jointly run by both you and your spouse. The money could be considered “commingled” and would then be subject to division just like all your other community assets. The same holds true if you used the money to make improvements on a home that you and your spouse own together. The value it adds to your home would be divided between the two of you.

So what if you or your benefactor never wanted that money going to anyone else? It’s possible to argue your case but you will be tasked with showing that to be the case. This can be a difficult thing to prove, though it’s not impossible.

If you expect to receive a significant inheritance though, there are measures you can take to protect it. For example, a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement can specifically state that an inheritance remains the separate property of the beneficiary. If you have concerns about what will happen to an inheritance in the event of a divorce, a family law attorney can look at the particulars of your situation and help you decide how to move forward.