This is a complicated questions and one that you need to discuss with an attorney. I suggest that your sister retain an attorney asap to protect her rights.
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The absence of a prenuptial agreement makes things much more difficult for your sister. The answer to the question whether a trust would be bulletproof is very likely no.
Your sister definitely needs to schedule a consultation with a local attorney that has specific expertise in Family Law and Divorce.
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I don't think it's complicated at all. Your sister gets the money from the sale of your father's real estate as 100% exempt property. Under NJ law, equitable distribution does not touch exempt assets, and one category of exemption is property acquired by gift or bequest. There is no reason for your sister to hide anything. All she has to do is keep a paper trail of where the money came from, and make sure that the account is set up in her sole name. She should not commingle any funds with her husband, period. She needs no other legal protection on this issue.
If your sister is going to get a divorce, then she should get an experienced NJ attorney who is a matrimonial specialist to represent her.
I specialize in matrimonial law and I agree with Hanan's answer. The fact that this is an inheritance and will not be commingled with her husband will almost definitely make it exempt from equitable distribution. I say "almost" because your sister should be very careful to not unintentionally do something with the money that will put it "in the pot" so to speak. She should also be careful not to do anything with it that will have other negative consequences in other areas of the divorce and the future payment plans for her son's college. If she's planning to get a divorce anyway, she should discuss her ideas (and more background about her case) with an attorney specializing in family law so she can feel at ease about how she handles the money. But overall, she should not be worried as long as she's smart about what she does next. Good luck!
I, too, agree with Mr. Isaacs.
As long as your sister keeps the money separate, it is not subject to equitable distribution in a divorce. (Equitable distribution is the NJ process for dividing marital assets and liabilities).
Please know, however, that your sister has the money, it will become relevant for the purposes of support (alimony and child support), as well as payment of college expenses for your sister's son.
Support is an issue which is separate from equitable distibution.
I believe that your sister should meet as soon as possible with a very experienced lawyer who devotes his/her practice to New Jersey Divorce and Family Law matters.
She should go over her situation in detail with the attorney, get educated answers to her questions, and obtain expert guidance as to the best course of action. In my opinion, it will be well worth the cost of the meeting.
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