Either before or during marriage, many Illinois residents receive inheritances from loved ones who passed away. They might not want to consider what would happen to that windfall during a divorce, but it is something to consider. There may be exceptions to the general rule that assets received as an inheritance are not subject to distribution during the divorce process.
However, there are instances where assets received as an inheritance could become marital property, and thus potentially subject to property division in a divorce. Regardless of when it was received, if the assets are commingled, they can become part of the marital estate. For example, if a cash bequest is deposited into a joint marital account, it may be considered commingled.
If funds from the marital estate are used to improve the value of this type of nonmarital asset, at least a portion could be considered for division. Alternatively, if an inheritance is used to enhance an asset that is marital property (such as the family home), that portion could be considered part of the estate. If an Illinois resident wants to ensure that an inheritance remains separate property, it would be advantageous to keep it in a separate account and/or include it in the list of separate property in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
As part of the divorce process, an individual may need to provide the court with compelling evidence that the inheritance should be excluded from the marital estate. This may be an uphill battle in some instances, but is not necessarily impossible. Increasing the chances of success in this endeavor would more than likely require the services and guidance of a savvy family law attorney.
Source: FindLaw, "Inheritance and Divorce", Accessed on June 11, 2017