Though Pennsylvania, like all other states, divvies up assets based on marital and separate status in divorce, it does offer protections for inheritances. Typically, so long as the beneficiary spouse does not commingle the inheritance with marital property, the inheritance will remain separate.
However, what becomes of an inheritance you purposefully set aside for your children? Can you protect it from distribution in your own divorce from a person who is not your child’s parent? Just as importantly, can you protect it from your adult child’s future ex-spouse? FindLaw provides advice to help parents protect their children’s inheritances.
If you have children from a previous marriage or outside of the marriage, passing your estate on to those children without a will or estate plan may prove to be difficult. If you die without a will, trust or other directives, your estate will go through probate. In these instances, the probate courts must abide by the rules of intestacy, which dictate that surviving spouses receive inheritances first and foremost.
To prevent this from happening, use an estate planning document to specify exactly what you want each child to inherit. Also, review your estate plans post-divorce to ensure it is in line with your current situation (remove your ex-spouse, add your new spouse, etc.).
Adult children at risk of divorce
Sometimes, parents are more concerned about their own adult children’s divorces than they are their own. If you worry that your adult child is at risk of divorce, take steps now to protect his or her inheritance. For one, make sure that if you do bequeath him or her with assets while he or she is still married, specify that the inheritance is for your child only. Warn your child about the consequences of comingling property, which can include the reduction or complete loss of the inheritance.
The best way to protect your child’s inheritance from divorce — regardless of whose it is — is to create a trust. Create the trust solely in your child’s name to safeguard his or her inheritance from disgruntled spouses, creditors and everyone in between.