Protecting your assets in a community property state

They say that a large number of people across the country, including many here in Wisconsin, either marry later in life or remarry. In many cases, this means that each party could already have significant assets once the wedding day arrives.

If you empathize with this position, then you understand the need to protect those assets. Perhaps you didn’t think you would need a prenuptial agreement. After all, you didn’t think your relationship would end in divorce, but now that you face that process, you could find yourself anxious about what you will be left with when the deed is done.

Wisconsin is a community property state

You may already know this, but you may not understand exactly what it means for your divorce. In a community property state such as this one, the court begins the property division process with the assumption that you and your spouse equally own everything. It is up to you to prove otherwise. Below are the most common separate assets individuals own at the time of their marriages:

  • Inheritances or gifts received by one spouse during the marriage
  • Assets acquired by one party prior to the marriage
  • Debts acquired by one party prior to the marriage

The court may consider some assets as partially separate. For instance, if you bought a home with your spouse using separately owned funds and marital funds, only a portion of the value of the home would constitute community property. You should know that just because an asset purchased during the marriage only has your name on it does not guarantee the court will consider it separate property.

 

Another caveat involves any funds you commingled during the marriage. For example, if you inherited some money, then put it into a joint account and used it to renovate the marital home, some or all of that money may no longer be your property alone. If you own properties in multiple states, Wisconsin’s community property laws govern how the court will divide them.

What you can do to keep your separate property

Unless you entered into a prenuptial agreement or carefully made sure your separate assets remained truly separate, you could have an uphill battle on your hands proving to the court that a particular asset is separate property. Since you have a significant portfolio, the stakes are high. Fortunately, you do not have to engage in this endeavor on your own. Making use of the legal resources at your disposal could help you retain as much of your pre-marriage and marriage wealth as possible.

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Gagne McChrystal De Lorenzo & Burghardt
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Milwaukee, WI 53202

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