Leaving an inheritance to an heir is an act of love and respect. An inheritance might include valuable assets or family heirlooms, both of which are meant to stay within the family. When an heir receives a size-able financial sum as his or her inheritance, it may be based off one or more generations of hard work and dedication. Protecting that inheritance during a divorce should be simple enough. However, there can be certain complicating factors during asset division.
Unless a will specifically states that an inheritance should go to both the heir and his or her spouse, it is considered the heir’s separate property. In Illinois, only marital property is divided during a divorce, and each partner maintains ownership of his or her own separate property. Real life is complicated, though, and dividing property into “marital” and “separate” categories is not necessarily straightforward. This is because it is possible for separate property to become marital property.
The switch to marital property is usually the result of an heir’s actions. For example, this may occur if an heir uses some or all of his or her inheritance to improve the couple’s primary place of residence. Depositing an inheritance into a joint bank account may also yield the same results, especially if the money is then used for marital expenses.
Asset division is difficult when inheritances, businesses and other high-value property are involved. It is not uncommon for one person to argue that a valuable asset is marital property, even when that is not the case. Protecting separate property is an important part of securing the fairest property settlement possible. When confronted with problems during this process, it is generally advisable to seek guidance from a knowledgeable attorney who is well-versed in Illinois family law.