Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce: Secure and Spend Money Gifted to You in a Wisconsin Divorce
Marriage is a journey, but sometimes it takes an unexpected turn, leading to divorce. When this happens, questions about the fate of gifted or inherited assets often arise. In Wisconsin, laws regarding gifts and inheritance in divorce are specific, but navigating them can be complex. This guide will provide you with insights into how to protect your gifted or inherited assets during a divorce in Wisconsin.
Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce: Understanding the Basics
Gifts and inheritance in divorce are generally exempt from division in Wisconsin. If you’ve diligently kept these funds separate in your name, there’s a high probability that you’ll be able to retain them. However, disputes may arise if these funds have been commingled with marital assets, such as being deposited into a joint account or used to purchase a marital home.
The current legal stance requires “donative intent” on the part of the spouse who received the inheritance. In other words, it must be evident that the spouse intended to contribute their inheritance to the marriage or to the other spouse. This determination is highly fact-specific, taking into account the specifics of the marriage and the actions of both parties.
Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce: Inheritances and Gifts as Individual Property
In Wisconsin, inheritances and gifts are considered individual property if they were given to only one spouse. These assets are separate from marital property and are generally not subject to division during divorce proceedings. However, they can become community property if they are commingled with shared assets or resources.
Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce: Factors Considered by the Court
When deciding whether inherited or gifted assets should be treated as separate or community property, the court considers two main factors:
- Evidence of the origin of the property: This factor involves providing proof that the property was indeed obtained through inheritance or as a gift.
- Maintenance of the property’s gifted status: This involves establishing whether the property retains its initial gifted status.
The burden of proof falls on the party seeking to demonstrate that the inheritance is non-divisible. This can involve significant effort and legal work, making it crucial to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side.
Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce: How Inherited Property Can Become Commingled
Inherited property can become commingled with marital assets if:
- The spouse who owns the property shares it with the other spouse.
- The other spouse significantly contributes to the property through labor, effort, inventiveness, skill, creativity, or managerial activity.
For example, if one party inherits a lump sum of money and deposits it into a joint account or uses it for joint expenses, the inheritance can be considered commingled. The court may then decide to split the commingled inheritance, either partially or evenly.
Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce: Types of Inherited Property and Case Examples
Different forms of inherited property can be subject to varying degrees of commingling:
- Cash or Savings: Inherited money that is deposited into a joint account or used for shared expenses may become commingled.Example: In the case of Weiss v. Weiss, gifted money was used to purchase a home where both parties lived, leading the court to consider it marital property.
- Trusts or Investments: Money received through inheritance can be invested, and the original sum remains individual property. However, any income generated from the investment may be considered community property.Example: In the case of Wright v. Wright, income from a trust was deposited into a personal retirement account, and the court considered it an individual gift because it was kept separate.
- Real Estate: Inherited real estate can become commingled if one party significantly contributes to its maintenance or improvement.Example: In Haldemann v. Haldemann, the court decided to split inherited farmland because the husband had performed substantial repairs and maintenance on the property.
Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce: Dividing Inherited Property
During property division in divorce, parties may agree to let each other keep items that clearly belong to them. However, when it comes to property classification, understanding what qualifies as individual property is crucial. If one party keeps individual property, they are not required to compensate the other party equally.
Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce: Protecting Inherited Assets from Division
To safeguard inherited assets from being divided during a divorce, it’s essential to keep them separate from marital assets. If an inheritance has already been commingled, the receiving party may still retain it but might need to provide something of equal value in exchange.
Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce: Addressing Unique Situations
In some cases, the court may decide to divide inherited property due to hardship. For example, if one spouse’s health is deteriorating, and both parties require the money, the court might split the inheritance for equitable reasons.
Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce: Inherited Property Before Marriage
Property acquired before the marriage or before the determination date is generally considered individual property. The determination date is either the wedding day or the day the couple moved to Wisconsin. If an inheritance predates the marriage, it should be treated as individual property. However, if it becomes commingled with marital assets, it may be subject to division.
Frequently Asked Questions about Gifts and Inheritance in Divorce
1. Can your spouse take your inheritance in a divorce? Your spouse cannot take your inheritance, but they may be entitled to a portion of it if it has been commingled with marital assets.
2. What happens to an inheritance in a divorce? Inherited property can remain individual property if it is kept separate from marital assets. However, if it is commingled, the court may decide to divide it.
3. How do you protect inherited assets from divorce? The best way to protect inherited assets is by keeping them separate from marital assets. If commingling has occurred, consult an attorney to navigate the legal complexities.
4. Is my ex-spouse entitled to my inheritance? If an inheritance is received after divorce and the ex-spouse is not named as a beneficiary, they should not have a claim to it.
5. Does a spouse inherit everything? In Wisconsin, both spouses equally own property, including property received through survivorship. However, a spouse can leave their half of the marital estate to someone other than their ex-spouse.
Navigating the complexities of gifts and inheritance in a divorce can be challenging. To ensure your assets are protected and fairly treated during divorce proceedings, it’s advisable to consult with an experienced family law attorney. At Dahlberg Law Group, Attorneys Latrice Knighton and Paul Santilli specialize in family law matters and can provide you with expert guidance tailored to your unique situation. Contact us today to discuss your case and secure your financial future.
For guidance and forms related to divorce proceedings in Wisconsin, refer to the official resources provided by the Wisconsin Court System:
Protecting your gifted and inherited assets during a divorce is crucial for securing your financial future. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Dahlberg Law Group for expert legal assistance.