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What happens to inherited assets in a divorce?

Individuals who are going through a divorce in Illinois might wonder how cash or other property that they inherited at some point will be treated during the property division phase. Whether an inheritance was acquired before or during a marriage, the inheritance will generally be considered the separate property of the recipient. As separate property, an inheritance will not be subject to equitable distribution during the divorce proceedings.

Although an inheritance is usually retained by one spouse, there are some ways that an inheritance could lose its status as separate property. This could happen if the spouse who received the inheritance commingled the assets with the couple's marital funds. For instance, if inherited money was placed in a joint bank account owned by both spouses, a judge may rule that the inheritance became marital property through commingling.

In certain circumstances, a court may decide that an inheritance that was commingled is not marital property. Depending on the situation, a spouse may be able to retain all or a portion of their inheritance even after it has been used in that manner. However, the spouse who received the inheritance must be able to demonstrate that they never had the intention of sharing the inherited funds with their spouse. After placing an inheritance in a joint bank account, proving that the funds were not meant to be shared can be difficult.

A person who is going through a divorce might want to contest a presumption that their inheritance was commingled so that they do not have to divide the property. Someone in this situation may argue that the inheritance was placed in a joint bank account only because they did not have a separate bank account or that it was more convenient at the time.

Source: Findlaw, "Divorce and Property", December 30, 2014

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