How Inheritances Impact Alimony Payments

How Inheritances Impact Alimony Payments

In West Virginia, the number of factors affecting spousal support can make it hard for parties on both sides to understand their rights and obligations. This issue becomes even more complicated when you throw an inheritance into the equation. Whether you receive or pay spousal support, find out how an inheritance could change your current agreement. For personalized legal advice regarding your spousal support agreement in Charleston, call Pence Law Firm at 304-407-7852.

When an Inheritance is Received Prior to Divorce

In general, inheritances are considered separate property—even when they are received during a marriage. This may change if the inheritance is commingled. For example, let’s say Spouse A receives $100,000 from an inheritance. They do not put it into a separate account that’s only in their name, instead, they put it into their shared bank account. 

The couple draws on it for years to pay family bills and expenses. At that point, the inheritance may be considered commingled and would be divided accordingly during a divorce. But if it is kept separate, it could still affect spousal support. If a lower-earning spouse has an inheritance, that could decrease the amount of spousal support they receive or eliminate it entirely. If the higher-earning spouse has one, their spouse may receive more in the way of spousal support and the division of marital property.

One topic that comes up from time to time is a promised inheritance. For example, imagine that one spouse is set to receive spousal support. The paying spouse insists that they should not have to pay because the receiving spouse will receive a massive inheritance when their family member dies. The court doesn’t consider future or potential inheritances—it will only look at what is already paid out.

Paying Alimony After Receiving an Inheritance

What if you receive an inheritance after a divorce and you’re currently paying spousal support to your ex? Many people worry at this point that their good fortune could mean giving some of it up to their ex-partner. However, it’s unlikely that an inheritance would put you on the hook for more alimony. If the court were to increase alimony, the payee would need convincing proof that their circumstances changed in a way to require an increase.

Another important factor to consider is what happens if your inheritance is enough to live on and you stop working. Even if you no longer have a standard source of income, you will likely still have to make alimony payments per your court order. When you give up your income willingly, the court knows that you are capable of earning what you made at your previous job, and they do not typically adjust spousal or child support accordingly.

Receiving Alimony After Securing an Inheritance

Depending on the terms of your alimony agreement in West Virginia, your alimony payments may change if you receive an inheritance. Rehabilitative spousal support is intended to help the payee make it until they are financially stable on their own. Generally, that means becoming gainfully employed or marrying someone who can support you. However, if you inherit enough to be financially self-sufficient, your ex may have grounds to ask the court to terminate alimony payments.

This isn’t always the case. Perhaps the court-ordered spousal support in gross, and you are entitled to a certain amount. Instead of paying it in a lump sum, your ex chose to have it divided up over 60 payments. Even if you become self-sufficient in the third year, you’re likely still entitled to the lump sum agreed upon in your divorce. In this scenario, the court may not terminate spousal support payments.

It all comes down to when you inherit, how much you inherit, and the specific language used in your divorce agreement. That’s why it’s important to discuss your situation with a Charleston family law attorney and get advice that fits your needs.

Get Help with Your Post-Divorce Issues Now—Call Pence Law Firm

If you or your ex-spouse have received an inheritance and you’re worried about its effect on spousal support, let the team at Pence Law Firm explain your rights and obligations. To schedule your consultation, just contact us online or call us at 304-407-7852.