Inheriting assets following the death of a loved one can be a bittersweet situation. On one hand, it means that a friend or family member has died, which can obviously be tragic. However, receiving a family heirloom or proceeds from the person’s estate can be fairly exciting, and, depending on the size of the inheritance could provide a measure of financial security. But what happens in the event of a divorce? Will your ex-spouse get to claim a portion of the property that was left to you?
Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, any asset acquired by one spouse during the marriage through gift, legacy, or descent is not considered to be marital property. As such, it will not become part of the marital estate and will not be subject to division in divorce. This sounds simple enough, but the reality of most marriages makes figuring out what to do with an inheritance much complicated.
Commuted and Transmuted Property
Perhaps the biggest factor that affects how inherited assets are handled in a divorce is how the property is kept and used once it been received. A large percentage of married couples tend to combine all of their income, assets, and resources for the benefit of the marriage and family. If you were to use your inheritance in this way, you would likely lose the standing to ask for it back in divorce. The court would probably determine that you gave your inheritance to the marital estate as a gift, commingling the asset with other marital property and causing it to lose its identity as non-marital. You should receive consideration for your contribution to the marital estate—which can be a factor in determining an equitable property division agreement—but you will not necessarily receive your inheritance dollar for dollar.
Keeping Your Inheritance Separate
The only way to be absolutely certain that you will keep your inheritance following your divorce is to maintain the assets separately from all other property used for family purposes. For example, if you received an inheritance of $100,000 in cash, you could keep the money in a separate count and not use it for anything related to your marriage or family. It is important to be clear with your spouse about your intentions, however, as secret accounts or hiding information could lead your spouse to believe you are attempting to conceal assets rather than protecting your inheritance.
Will County Property Division Professionals
If your marriage is struggling and you may soon be receiving an inheritance, you should seek the guidance of an experienced Orland Park family law attorney. Call Kezy & Associates today at 708-518-8200 and schedule your free, confidential consultation. We will help ensure your assets are fully protected throughout the divorce process, allowing you the happier life you deserve.