Dennis Hopper died more than three years ago now, but the issue of who would inherit his $2.85 million fortune wasn't settled until September 2012. His nine-year-old daughter will receive the bulk of his estate, which is held in a trust for her and cannot be touched by his ex-wife because of solid work on the part of Mr. Hopper's attorneys. During divorce proceedings, his former spouse fought to get some of his money. A prenuptial agreement had been signed, however, guaranteeing that after a 13-year marriage, Victoria Duffy would walk away empty-handed.
But what if Mr. Hopper's money was not something he'd earned from his film career but was an inheritance? Would Ms. Duffy have been allowed to touch the money? Under California community property law, an inheritance is generally considered to be personal property. It does not fall under the community property rules that govern most marital assets and would not be accessible to Ms. Duffy, even without the prenup. This right can be lost if you comingle the inheritance with your spouse's money (you deposit your inheritance into a joint banking account), or if you formally gift part of the money to your spouse. However, as a rule of thumb, your inheritance, as long as it was given to you alone, remains yours during divorce proceedings.
If you have questions or concerns about this issue, it is best to ask your divorce attorney. A lawyer can help you sort out all the details and ensure that your money remains yours, even if you never signed a prenuptial agreement. Of course, you are on your own if you do not have an attorney, and your spouse may gain access to your inheritance. That is why it is so important that you have a qualified divorce attorney working for you and protecting your rights.