Over the course of a marriage, most couples will acquire a significant amount of assets and property. While many of these assets are the result of the couple’s efforts, such as salaries, bonuses, and financial investments, others are often acquired in the form of gifts or inheritances. Real estate, in particular, may represent some of the most valuable property that is owned by either spouse, and frequently creates complications during asset division in the event of divorce.
Basics of Equitable Distribution
Illinois law requires that all marital property be divided equitably between divorcing spouses, based upon consideration of their circumstances. Each spouse’s needs, contributions, and the established standard of living, among other concerns, all affect the distribution of marital assets. In many situations, however, determining what is marital property can be challenging, even if the law seems clear.
In general, any property that either spouse acquires during the marriage is considered to be marital property with several exceptions. Assets acquired through gifts or inheritances to one spouse, and property protected by a valid agreement between the spouses are exempt from distribution in divorce.
Real Estate Inheritances
With that in mind, it may seem straightforward that any real estate left to one spouse through an inheritance would be considered non-marital property during divorce. Initially, such a supposition would be true. The inheriting spouse would be able to hold such property separately without it being subjected to division. Likewise, he or she could sell the real estate, whether it was the family home of a parent, a vacation home, or investment property, and keep the proceeds of the sale as non-marital assets.
Complications with inherited real estate may arise, however, if and when the inheriting spouse begins commingling marital property with the inheritance. For example, a man receives a vacation home as part of his inheritance from his deceased mother. Instead of selling the vacation home, the man decides to renovate it using income and savings he has accumulated with his wife. Once the renovations are complete, the couple continues to use the vacation home together for a period of years prior to the deterioration and ultimate dissolution of the marriage.
In such a situation, while the inherited vacation home would remain non-marital property, the marital assets used toward its upkeep and increasing the value of the home may be reimbursed to the marital estate. The reimbursement may not necessarily be dollar for dollar, but in accordance with equitable distribution guidelines. As with many aspects of divorce, the specific circumstances must be carefully considered in making such a determination.
Legal Help for Real Estate and Property Division
If you are considering divorce and have questions about jointly or separately owned real estate, contact an experienced Kane County divorce attorney today. The professional legal team at Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C. has been helping clients with their real estate issues in divorce for more than 40 years. Call 630-377-7770 to schedule your free consultation and put our knowledge to work for you.