How Can I Protect My Inheritance?

Answer: If a spouse inherits or is gifted any property during a marriage, that property (under our divorce law) is non-marital property and will remain the sole property of the spouse receiving any such gift or inheritance provided that which is gifted or inherited starts out with and remains titled to or in an account held solely in the name of that spouse.

If the gifted or inherited property is placed in co-ownership with the other spouse (checking account, savings account, stock brokerage account, property deed, car title, etc.), then the gift or inheritance is deemed to be a gift to the marriage thereby changing the character of the gift or inheritance from that of a “non-marital” asset to that of a “marital” asset. In divorce, marital assets are subject to division by the Court pursuant to the equities that exist in that particular case. This division is often 50-50 but isn’t necessarily so. If there is a large disparity in income between the parties, and, certain other factors are present, the division could easily be 60-40, 54-45, etc. Also, it is not unheard of to see a 70-30 division if health or other justifying factors are present.


The Court cannot and will not divide non-marital property as same is not part of the marriage and is awarded to the party that owns it.

The above recitation of Illinois law is true and accurate and is applicable in 90 plus percent of the cases involving gifts and inheritances. However, the facts of each case must be interpreted in light of the precedents handed down by Illinois’ higher Courts. These higher Court decisions regarding the commingling and transmutation of estates have caused certain exceptions to the above-stated law and the requirement of certain specific facts to be present in order to fit same.