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Can I Keep My Inheritance in a Wisconsin Divorce?

 Posted on August 04, 2022 in Family Law

Waukesha, WI Divorce LawyerWhen couples get divorced, the process of diving money, property, and debt is often very contentious. Whereas a couple may have previously shared everything they had, each spouse is now likely trying their hardest to maximize their share of the marital estate. While Wisconsin law makes the process of dividing property fairly straightforward in some regards, certain situations can make it more complex. If you received an inheritance before or during your marriage, you may be wondering whether you get to keep it in a divorce. For answers, read on and then contact an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney. 

What is Considered Marital Property in Wisconsin? 

As with most states, Wisconsin considers assets and debts that are accumulated by either spouse during a marriage to be marital property. And because Wisconsin is a community property state, during a divorce, Wisconsin law requires marital property to be divided as equally as possible. But what about assets that spouses owned before the marriage? Or assets that were gotten through gifts and inheritance? While these are generally considered personal property, this can become complicated when funds are used for purposes that benefit the marriage. 

Co-Mingling and Donative Intent

When someone inherits money, that money is considered theirs exclusively - even if they are married. But what they do with that money after they inherit it can affect the money’s ownership significantly. For example, if someone inherits $50,000 and places it in a separate, individually owned account where it sits and earns interest for ten years until a divorce, everything in the account plus the interest will likely remain the property of the inheriting spouse. 

But if the money is commingled by placing it in a joint marital account and then used over the years for purposes related to the marriage (sometimes called “donative intent,” because the spouse does not expect to get that money back), the money can become so mixed up that the entire account may be considered marital property. 

Depending on how much commingling occurred, it may be necessary to hire a forensic accountant who can determine how much, if any, of the inherited money is still in the joint account. A court will then decide whether that amount is marital property or belongs to the spouse who inherited it. 

Call a New Berlin, WI Marital Property Division Lawyer

Protecting your inheritance may be a top priority in your divorce. To get help from a team of Milwaukee County divorce attorneys who will fight to help you keep what is yours, call the offices of Bucher, Wolff & Sonderhouse, LLP. We have the connections and know-how to find the right professionals and track the history of your assets. Contact us today at 262-232-6699


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