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How Does Inheritance Affect the Equitable Distribution Process?

In an Illinois divorce, the court determines asset distribution and debt allocation based on “equitable distribution.” As the term implies, equitable means fair, not equal. This flexible system means that separating spouses may not receive a strict 50/50 split.

The court considers multiple factors when determining equitable distribution:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • The earning abilities of both spouses
  • The best interests of the child
  • The value of the marital estate
  • Various tax considerations
  • Marital vs. non-marital property

But what happens if you inherit assets and property in the course of your marriage? Is it considered part of the marital estate?

Marital & Non-Marital Property

The court can only divide property that is part of a couple’s “marital estate.” These marital assets encompass any property, finances, and debts that a couple acquired during the years of their marriage.
The marital estate may include:

  • Financial accounts
  • Income earned during the marriage
  • Stock and investments
  • Retirement savings
  • Real estate properties
  • Motor vehicles

Alternatively, non-marital property, which is also known as “separate property” and “personal property,” may be exempt from the marital estate.

Non-marital property includes:

  • Inheritances
  • Gifts
  • Property owned before the marriage

The Burden of Proof

Only the court can decide if your inheritance is considered part of the marital estate. This is why it’s essential that a divorcing spouse retains the services of an experienced attorney.

You must provide evidence to the court that you received any applicable assets as part of your inheritance. However, it isn’t as simple as just providing a copy of a will. You’re going to need a lawyer to help you argue that you retained complete and sole ownership over the inheritance during your marriage. If your spouse can prove that the inheritance was commingled with marital property, it may become part of your marital estate.

Schedule a Consultation

Contact the Illinois divorce attorneys at Wakenight & Associates, P.C. if you have any questions or concerns about the equitable distribution process. During your consultation, we can review your assets, determine which properties are part of your marital estate, and strategize ways to protect your non-marital assets.

Call Wakenight & Associates, P.C. to schedule your free consultation. We have offices conveniently located in Oak Park, Joliet, and Mokena.


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