Inheritance and Divorce -How are Inherited Assets Treated?

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Inheritance and divorce are two significant life events that can have complex legal implications. Understanding the connection between these two areas of law is crucial to ensure fair outcomes and protect the interests of all parties involved. In England and Wales, inheritance is not automatically included in a divorce settlement. However, there are some circumstances in which the court may consider it.

If you need an experienced inheritance and divorce solicitor to assist you with your queries, please get in touch with Expert Family Law today. We can put you in touch with the most appropriate legal professional for your case.

What is Inheritance?

Inheritance is the transfer of property, money, or other assets from one person to another after the first person dies. In the UK, inheritance can be received from a number of sources, including:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Other relatives
  • Friends
  • Charities

Inheritance and Divorce Laws

England and Wales have well-established inheritance laws that govern how assets are distributed upon an individual’s death. The law allows individuals to exercise testamentary freedom, meaning they can decide how their estate should be distributed through a legally valid will. However, some legal provisions safeguard certain individuals who may have a rightful claim to the estate, even if they are not explicitly mentioned in the will.

For instance, spouses or civil partners have statutory rights to claim against the estate, irrespective of what is specified in the will. Additionally, the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 provides protection for children, cohabitants, and other dependants who may have been excluded from the will.

Divorce in the UK falls under family law, and the legal framework aims to achieve a fair distribution of marital assets and financial resources upon the termination of a marriage. The court considers a range of factors, including the duration of the marriage, financial contributions made by each spouse, earning capacities, and the welfare of any children involved.

During divorce proceedings, all assets, including inheritance received during the marriage or after separation, are typically taken into account when determining the division of property, savings, pensions, and other financial holdings.

The court has discretionary powers, allowing for a flexible approach to determining a fair settlement that ensures both parties can adequately move forward financially.

How is inherited property treated in divorce?

In general, inheritance is not automatically included in a divorce settlement as matrimonial property. This means that if one spouse inherits money or property during the marriage, the other spouse is not entitled to a share. The Court may ring fence and treat the inheritances as separate to marital assets in the event of a divorce.

However, there are some circumstances in which the court may consider inheritance as part of the matrimonial pot when dividing assets in a divorce. If a spouse received an inheritance during the marriage and it was used by both spouses in a joint account for the matrimonial home, for example, then the inheritance may be treated as a matrimonial asset by the court during divorce proceedings.

The court may also consider inheritance if it is necessary to meet the needs of both parties’ financial situations after the divorce. For example, if one spouse is unable to work due to ill health, the court may consider using inheritance to provide them with financial support and a fair standard of living.

When inheritance becomes a factor in a divorce, the court will consider it as part of the overall financial picture. Inherited assets acquired in the marriage may be divided between the parties, depending on various circumstances.

The court’s objective is to achieve fairness and ensure that both parties can meet their needs post-divorce. It is also worth remembering that under the laws in England and Wales, any inherited property does not automatically get divided equally between spouses. It is up to the court if the inherited property should even be included in the matrimonial assets.

Any future inheritance that may be received following a divorce will generally not be seen as a joint asset by the court due to a number of factors, such as the unknown value of future inheritance and the timescales it may become available.

Inheritance received during a marriage may also be protected by a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement that spouses may have signed.

How can Expert Family Law assist?

If you seek legal advice regarding inheritance and divorce proceedings, our Expert Family Law team is happy to assist. We work with a range of experienced family lawyers across the country to provide our clients with the most appropriate legal professional for their case.

We ensure that the solicitors on our panel have the skills and experience required to assist in your legal case. We can assure you that your case will be dealt with in a compassionate and understanding manner, aiming to ensure you receive the financial settlement you deserve following a breakdown of a marriage.

Each solicitor we work with is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

Please contact us today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a divorce solicitor from our panel could help with your case.

Inheritance and Divorce: FAQs

What happens if I inherit property after filing for divorce but before the divorce is finalised?

If you inherit property after you have filed for divorce but before the divorce is finalised, the treatment of the inheritance can vary. Generally, it is considered a personal asset, not subject to division, unless it has been commingled with marital assets or used for the benefit of the marriage. However, this can depend on the specifics of the divorce settlement and jurisdiction.

Can future inheritance be considered during divorce negotiations?

Future inheritances are generally not considered in divorce proceedings as they are speculative and their value is not guaranteed. The court typically does not include potential future inheritances when dividing assets. However, if an inheritance is imminent and its value can be estimated, it might be considered in negotiations, especially if it affects one party’s financial needs.

How can a pre-nuptial agreement protect my inheritance?

A pre-nuptial agreement can specify that any inheritance received by either spouse will remain that individual’s separate property and not be included in the marital estate. This can protect your inheritance from being subject to division as part of a divorce settlement, providing clarity and protecting your assets as stipulated in the agreement. However, these types of agreements are not binding under the law in England and Wales, and the Court will generally use discretion when considering a prenuptial agreement.

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