DIVISION OF INHERITED PROPERTY IN DIVORCE

In the case of Deyo v. Deyo, decided by the Michigan Court of Appeals, one of the issues presented involved whether the trial court erred by including all of plaintiff's inherited property in the marital estate. As the court noted "Generally, marital assets are subject to division between the parties but the parties' separate assets may not be invaded. However, the trial court may award all or a portion of a party's separate assets to a spouse "if it appears from the evidence in the case that the party contributed to the acquisition, improvement, or accumulation of the property." MCL 552.401.



In the Deyo case, the trial court determined that defendant's care of plaintiff's ailing father contributed to the inherited estate so that she should share in it:



As the plaintiff's father began to fail over a period of two or three years, the defendant wife was involved in his care, bringing him meals and otherwise attempting to make his final days as comfortable as possible. There is no doubt that both parties were aware that some day there would be a large inheritance from his father, and the defendant wife reasonably expected that after 25 years she would benefit from it. For the most part, defendant did not relate well to her father-in-law, who did not like or trust women (He never married plaintiff's mother and, according to the plaintiff, did not treat her well). Despite her feelings, defendant did assist the father during his decline, and toward the end their relationship was better. . . .



This Court found that the wife's assistance in caring for the father as well as her continuation in the strained marriage for so many years created a situation whereby she did contribute to the inherited estate.




As a result of these findings, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's determination that defendant contributed to the acquisition of the inherited assets.