17 October, 2012
If you are divorcing and you or your spouse have inherited assets, those inherited assets are definitely a factor which must be considered in any financial settlement.
The Court will not ignore the existence of the inheritance, but can decide to give more of the other matrimonial assets to the party without the inheritance, keeping in mind the fact that the other party has the benefit of that additional wealth. Or alternatively, in some cases, the Court can decide to 'ring fence' the inheritance and keep it out of the assets to be divided altogether.
The factors which the Court would take into consideration in deciding how much weight should be given to the inherited wealth include the type of the asset inherited, when it was inherited, and the extent to which it was kept separate from the other matrimonial assets owned by the divorcing couple.
It is important to bear in mind however that if the assets of the marriage are not sufficient to meet the needs of the parties, then the Court is likely to draw upon the inheritance to meet those needs.
In some cases, wealthy parents anticipating problems within the marriage of their offspring can take steps to amend their Wills or enter into Trusts, as a "damage limitation" exercise, and this can be successful if properly drawn and in the right circumstances.
It does seem that the Courts attribute significant weight to this type of 'contribution' by one party to the marriage, i.e. introducing an inheritance. It is usually relatively easy to identify an inheritance, and often it will have been very clearly documented in the form of a Will or Trust. It does seem to be the case that when wealthy couples are divorcing, the Court is anxious to try to keep a family's assets within that family.
In other words, any inheritance is relevant and must be taken into consideration, although depending on the circumstances, it is not necessarily treated in the same way as the other assets, and not always "dipped" in to.
Partner, Forbes Solicitors
Forbes Family law team is made up of specialist Solicitors who offer advice on all areas of Family Law, including divorce, division of assets following marriage breakdown, cohabitee issues, ancillary relief, civil partnerships, children matters and change of name deeds. For further information on divorce issues please contact any of our Family Law Solicitors