If you’re married and a trust beneficiary, protect yourself

Negating separateness.

Now, there are certainly legions of people who will simply give a befuddled shrug upon hearing the above words and ultimately find upon explanation that, indeed, they impart no personal meaning.

If, though, you perchance happen to be an Illinois resident who is a member of a wealthy family and the beneficiary of a third-party trust established by, say, your parents or grandparents, you might reasonably want to zero in — promptly and closely — on what those words potentially imply.

Here’s the bottom line, as expressed in a recent national business article discussing trust provisions and protections relevant to a married beneficiary: Negation is bad. Don’t do it.

A trust is often employed by wealthy families to provide for a married family member throughout life or an otherwise stated term, with the intent being that its assets will be duly shielded from the claims of other parties, including soon-to-be ex-spouses in divorce battles.

As Forbes notes, there is often no problem in ensuring such a result, provided that a trust is properly drafted and executed, with explicitly clear terms and expectations set forth.

There is of course a caveat to that, namely this: How a beneficiary interacts with trust assets during marriage can render things murky in a hurry and even, in some instances, influence a judge into declaring that certain assets are no longer so-called “separate” property but, rather, “marital property.”

Say, for example, that as a beneficiary you mixed (in legal parlance, commingled) trust monies with assets jointly held by you and your spouse. Perhaps you purchased a house with them, which you and your spouse live in and have made improvements to.

An Illinois court might view that as effecting a change in the status of that would-be protected wealth. In short, a judge might render such assets marital property, which makes them subject to an equitable distribution between you and your partner in a marital dissolution.

Obviously, due care must be taken in all complex money-related matters that can potentially be spotlighted during the divorce process.

An individual with questions or concerns regarding any aspect of Illinois property division in a divorce might reasonably want to contact a proven divorce attorney with a deep well of experience in that area.

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