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What are my legal right to inheritance/asset accumulated during marriage?

Quincy, MA |

Entering the marriage my husband and I agree to split half all of the asset we accumulate during our marriage to avoid messy divorce. In recent year, my husband aunt passes away and left him inheritance money/annuity which is now sitting in a trust account under his name. My name is not on this trust and I was told by him I can't legally touch his inheritance because the trust is in his name. Am I entitling to half of this money/annuity? What are my legal right?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. You have no right to a particular percentage of anything. You have the right to an "equitable" division of assets based on several factors, including the length of the marriage and, with regard to inheritances, when the inheritance was acquired and whether and for how long the funds from the inheritance were integrated into the marriage.

    When you say that you and your husband entered the marriage with an agreement - was the agreement in writing? If so, you should consult the agreement to see whether it anticipates inheritances. Otherwise, a share of the inheritance is certainly something you can push for in a Settlement Agreement but is by no means guaranteed. Another factor that can effect whether you have access to it is the wording of the trust itself. Does he get the money outright? Does he have guaranteed income? Do the trustees have discretion to not pay him anything or to apply money for his benefit?

    As you can see, there are many factors that go into deciding whether you can receive a piece of his inheritance. If you feel you are being wronged, you should get a free consultation with a divorce attorney.

  2. Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, which basically means upon divorce, absent a valid prenuptial agreement, any pre-marital or marital asset can be divided in any way that's fair.

    I'm not sure whether your agreement with your husband to split everything 50-50 is valid: was it written? Were you represented by counsel? Did you do a complete disclosure of your assets?

    If this was just a verbal agreement, that won't hold up in court. So, this trust can be can divided in any way the judge deems fair based on a number of factors. (length of marriage, asset's use in marriage, how did the asset come to be a marital asset, who helped the asset grow, who caused the asset to shrink, etc. etc.)

    Currently, in your married state, since you aren't on the trust you aren't entitled to any part of it. (With the caveat that your "agreement" with your husband doesn't appear binding either while married or in the event of divorce). You have to get divorced to get these things divided up.

    If you are looking to get divorced, you can go the traditional litigation route, or you can mediate or negotiate your divorce. If you choose to mediate or negotiate, the factors that a court considers become less important and what the two of you want to do becomes more important. Meaning, the two of you can decide for yourself what's fair on asset division and everything else involved in a divorce.

    Best of luck.

    This post is for informational purposes only. You should not construe it as a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances, and you should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. Publication of these materials and your receipt of them does not create an attorney-client relationship.

  3. If the account is under his name, then he can control its distribution. Any verbal agreement that is made before or during the marriage rarely has any force of law. What that means is he can pretty much do whatever he wants with the money. Just as you can. To be on a safe site consult at matrimonial lawyer and maybe there are some details which I'm missing that can assist you with this.

    NOTE: This preceding message DOES NOT create an attorney-client relationship. It is not a protected or confidential communication. The statements made herein are not to be interpreted as representations or warranties of any kind. No reliance should be placed on the statements made herein. It is recommended that the recipient(s) should undertake their own research to reach their own opinion. The writer does not accept professional responsibility on this matter. TO CREATE an attorney-client relationship REQUIRES a signed retainer/fee agreement along with a retainer fee that must be received by my office.

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