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How does a divorce affect inheritance?

It's incredible how many little details must be worked out in order for a divorce to be finalized. There are issues of child custody, alimony, child custody and, sometimes the most contentious issue of them all, who gets what. Property division is one of the most complex factors in a split. The divorcing couple has to decide how to divide all of their funds and possessions, which is not an easy task when both sides are typically hurt and angered.

Illinois is an equitable distribution state, meaning if the couple doesn't come to an agreement, the court will do the dividing for them. So, how do the courts decide who gets what when it comes to an inheritance during a divorce? The answer hinges on one concept: was the inheritance considered marital or non-marital property? Divining this isn't always as easy as it seems.

For instance, if the bequeather clearly states that the inheritance is meant for one spouse, it will go to that person in the event that there is a divorce. However, if the beneficiary of the inheritance deposits the money into a joint bank account, the inheritance is considered "commingled" and, thus, marital property that is subject to division.

Here's the kicker: Illinois courts automatically assume everything is marital property and so the burden of proof falls on the spouse to provide evidence that says otherwise.

As with all issues in a divorce, having an attorney on your side can be an invaluable asset in making sure that your rights are protected and you get what is rightfully yours.

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Goddard & Malmquist

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