Could Your Ex Claim Your Inheritance If You Divorce?
If you have received an inheritance whilst married or are due to receive an inheritance, you will seek to argue that it should not enter the ‘pot’ of matrimonial assets to be divided.
Generally in divorce settlements in England and Wales all assets of the marriage are pooled and treated as joint assets. Money or property that you’ve inherited are not automatically excluded from the assets to be divided.
Every case is different and whether an inheritance is included depends on individual circumstances including the size of the inheritance, when you received it, how it was dealt with during the marriage, and what the financial needs are of both parties.
The financial needs of one or both parties may mean that inherited assets have to go into the ‘pot’.
Although each case is different, I can share some guidelines based on experience and previous court cases.
Past Inheritances and Divorce
The key questions when it comes to past inheritance and divorce are the size of the inheritance, when it was received, how it has been used and the financial needs of the parties and if there are children at the time of the divorce.
A recent Court of Appeal case has set out some useful guidelines:
- Each case depends on the individual facts and circumstances
- If inherited assets are transferred to joint names or used for the benefit of the couple/family, they are likely to form part of the ‘pot’ of matrimonial assets available for division by the Court
- Inherited assets received shortly before the breakdown of the marriage are less likely to be included in the matrimonial assets for division, depending on whether the other assets are sufficient to meet the couple’s or family’s future needs
- The needs of the family, especially where there are minor children, will be the overriding consideration and if the only way to meet those needs is by transferring inherited assets or assets deriving from them, to the other party, the Court may do this.
Future Inheritance and Divorce
Usually future inheritances are not taken into account when dealing with the financial aspects of a divorce, but they may be if it is expected that the person making the bequest will die in the near future and the future inheritance is likely to be substantial. Sometimes Courts may even adjourn the proceedings until the inheritance is received.