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I Live in Pa. and inherited a house 5 yrs. ago.

Stroudsburg, PA |

I Live in Pa. and inherited a house 5 yrs. ago. I'm married to a man that I have not had any contact with for 23 yrs. Does this guy have any claim on this house that I inherited?

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Attorney answers 4


... Hello ...

... Short answer - no ... anything received by inheritance/bequest/gift belongs to you and you alone ... until you do something with it (i.e., put an inheritance in a joint account), it belongs to you ...

... Having said all that, I am inferring from you question a divorce ... the divorce laws (to the best of my knowledge) may take that into consideration ... I would either ask that in the "family law/divorce" section or seek the advice of an attorney well versed in that area ...

... Good luck ...

... John ...

John B. Whalen, Jr., J.D., LL.M. is an AV Peer Review Attorney and Counselor at Law, is listed in The Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, is Avvo Rated 10.0 Superb, is a recipient of the Legum Magister (LL.M.) Post-Doctorate Degree in Taxation (from the Villanova University School of Law), and is a recipient of the American Jurisprudence Award in Wills, Trusts, and Estates (from the Widener University School of Law).

Mr. Whalen, Jr. provides free initial home consultations seven (7) days per week, including all evenings, weekends, and holidays, from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM.

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I agree with attorney Whalen. Your estranged husband would not have a claim on the house. Typically property inherited would not be included in marital property unless the property was made joint with your spouse.

I would recommend that you meet with a divorce attorney as soon as possible.

This answer does not, nor is it intended to, create an attorney-client relationship or constitute attorney advertising. Rather, it is offered solely for information purposes. Since the facts of each case are different, it is critical to consult with qualified counsel with whom information can be shared and assessed under an attorney-client privilege, so that competent advice can be obtained on which you can make informed decisions.


Property received through inheritance is separate property, unless and until it is combined with marital or community property, thus changing the property's character from separate to marital. Commingling of funds is the easiest example. If you receive a $100 inheritance and add it to the community bank account, the inheritance is going to be characterized as community property, no longer separate property.

The other issue is your estranged husband. You should consult with local counsel about that relationship and how it should be handled.

When responding to questions posted on Avvo, I provide a general purpose response based on California law as I am licensed in California. In reviewing my response, you are specifically advised that your use of, or reliance upon any response I provide is not advisable. I do not have all relevant background details or facts related to your issue / matter, thus I am not in a position to give you legal advice. Further, your review, use of, or reliance upon my response does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us nor does it qualify as a legal consultation for any purpose. For specific advice regarding your particular circumstances, you should consult and retain local counsel.


While I agree with my colleagues, in connection with a divorce, I think there are some other factors which mean that you need to get to an estate planning attorney as soon as possible. A lot will depend on how the property is titled. If the property is in joint names and something happens to you, then he will own the house. If it is in your name alone and you die, then the house would need to go through probate and he would have rights, as your surviving spouse. Even if you leave a Will that disinherits him, he will likely have certain elective rights and allowances that cannot be undone.

Assuming the property IS titled in your name alone, I believe you are going to either need to have a trust set up, or a deed that conveys title to someone else, upon your death. That is the only way that you can foreclose all rights he would have in this property if you were to pass away. And even that may not do it completely. That is why I think you need to get to an estate planning attorney, as far as the house is concerned.

Beyond that, and equally as important, you need to have durable power of attorney forms set up for health and financial matters. Otherwise, HE would be first in line to take over your medical treatment and your banking and asset management, if you were to become incapacitated.

All of this should be set up through an estate planning attorney, so you can be sure it is done right.

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.

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