A question that is often asked by newly separated clients attending our office is how does the Court deal with an inheritance received by one party late or even shortly after a marriage breakdown?
This question can be a challenging one and the answer will vary depending upon the evidence. If an agreement cannot be negotiated between the parties, it will be determined by a Judge, using his or her discretion and having regard to the individual circumstances of the case.
In the case of Nikas & Anthis, Judge Bender addressed this issue (amongst many others) of an inheritance received late in a marriage. It was found here that the circumstances of the case were such that the inheritance received by the wife late in the marriage should be treated separately from the matrimonial asset pool. The fact that the wife retained all of her inheritance served as an adjustment factor, important only as a financial resource in evaluating how the parties’ matrimonial assets would be divided.
In the case of Elgabri, the husband inherited $527,000 late in a 25 year marriage. During this marriage, both parties had made otherwise equal financial and non-financial contributions. The Court decided to exclude the inheritance received by the husband from the matrimonial asset pool but as a result, instead of what would usually be a 50/50 sharing of the family asset pool, the Court divided the remaining pool of assets 57.5/42.5% in the wife’s favour because the husband had benefited from the inheritance.
The cases suggest that there is a wide range of judicial discretion. How the Courts will deal with an inheritance received late in a marriage or after separation will depend wholly upon the individual circumstances of the case. Furthermore, even when a late inheritance is excluded from the asset pool, it will usually be factored in as a financial resource of one party.
Both John Butler and Lorraine Clarke are experienced Family Lawyers who can assist you with detailed and personal advice with respect to these and all other family law matters. Please call us if you require assistance.