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What happens to inherited farmland in a divorce?

On Behalf of | May 9, 2024 | Family Law |

In Illinois, divorce involves determining which properties are marital assets and which are not. Inherited farmland usually qualifies as non-marital property. This distinction is important for farmers who have received land from family members.

The primary rule is that if one spouse inherits land, it remains their property as long as they do not commingle it with marital assets.

Protecting inherited farmland

To protect inherited farmland during a divorce, one should avoid using marital funds for the farm’s maintenance or improvement. If marital money pays for upgrades or upkeep, a court might view the land as marital property, making it eligible for division. Individuals should keep detailed records of how they finance the farm’s expenses. These records can demonstrate that the individual used separate, non-marital funds for the farm.

Legal strategies and considerations

Several legal strategies can help protect inherited farmland in a divorce. One common approach is drafting a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that explicitly states the farm is separate property and not subject to division in case of divorce. Additionally, forming a trust to hold the farmland can provide an extra layer of protection, as the trust owns the land, not the individual.

Challenges in proving sole ownership

Challenges may arise when proving that farmland is solely one person’s property. If the inheriting spouse has mixed personal funds with those from their partner to support the farm, this can complicate matters. Illinois courts look at the source of funds used for the farm’s expenses. If these sources are joint, the farm may no longer be considered separate property.

Impact of divorce on farming operations

Divorce can significantly affect farming operations, particularly if the farm is subject to division. Operational disruptions can occur, affecting livelihoods. It can be wise to seek legal assistance focused on maintaining the farm’s integrity and operations during the divorce process.