Inheritance in divorce settlements

Posted 5th February 2014

Written by Emma Hartley

I have recently received a large number of enquiries from clients as to whether inheritance would be considered in any financial settlement subsequent to a divorce. 

I thought some clarification on this particularly sensitive issue would be of assistance.

Receipt of Inheritance

If the inheritance was received prior to the marriage and the recipient has kept this wholly separate and external to the marriage, there would be a strong argument for the recipient to keep it and for the inheritance to be “ring fenced”, provided that there are sufficient matrimonial assets to satisfy both parties reasonable needs.

If you or your spouse/civil partner are in receipt of inheritance during the marriage or if it was used to purchase a matrimonial asset/property, it is something that will no longer be “ring fenced” and should be taken into account in financial discussions as it may affect the outcome.

Information detailing the receipt of inheritance is to be provided at the financial disclosure stage.  When calculating the capital of the marriage, such “pooled” inheritance will be included.  How the Court takes it into account will depend upon the nature and value of the property; how and when it was acquired and the needs of the parties.

In both cases it must be remembered  that  if the needs of the non-inheritance receiving party cannot be met without incorporating the inheritance, the fact that it is inherited will carry little weight.

Future Inheritance

Usually future inheritances are not taken into account due to the uncertain nature of such potential benefits.  However, they may be if it is expected that the person making the bequest will die in the near future and the bequest is likely to be substantial.  Sometimes Courts may even adjourn the proceedings until the inheritance is received.

The final financial order, whether it be a Consent Order made by agreement or following a contested hearing, usually provides that there is to be clean break (although this does depend on circumstances) which means you or your spouse/civil partner would be unable to make any claims against any inheritance that either of you receives in the future following the making of the Order.

A solicitor can advise you whether an inheritance is likely to be considered.  If you wish to discuss on this or any other family law issues, please contact either Emma Hartley or Amanda Cuthbert of Newtons Solicitors.  Both Emma and Amanda offer a first class approach to what can be a difficult and upsetting time.  Newtons offer a free half an hour confidential appointment and can be flexible when needed.  We have car parking and wheelchair access.