Inheritance Lawyers Berkhamsted, Amersham & Beaconsfield 

Will my inheritance be considered as a matrimonial asset during divorce?

If you are unable to reach a financial settlement with your spouse during divorce, you may have to seek the assistance of the court to make an order. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 gives courts discretion to divide assets as they decide. Courts have a lot of flexibility to make an order based on your circumstances. In terms of dividing any inheritance one spouse has received, the court will consider factors such as:
  • when the inheritance was received
  • whether you have children
  • the size of the inheritance
  • how the inheritance has been used
  • the length of your marriage.
It is important to note that any inheritances you receive are not automatically excluded from a financial settlement on divorce. Whether you must share it depends on the specific circumstances of your case.

Do the Courts generally accept that inheritance always forms a part of the matrimonial assets?

Usually pensions, property and savings are generally considered to be matrimonial assets. A court will generally divide these equally. Inheritance on the other hand can be considered a matrimonial asset and divided on divorce if it is required to meet your family’s needs after the marriage ends. An inheritance can also be considered part of your joint assets if it was used for the benefit of the family. For example, you may have inherited some money and used this towards the renovation of the family home. Here, a court may consider this money a matrimonial asset.

How do the Courts deal with inheritance during divorce?

Every case is different, and the court will look at the specific circumstances of your situation before making an order. Thera are several factors the court will consider before making a decision these include the following:
  • age
  • income
  • financial resources
  • the standard of living during marriage
  • contributions made to the marriage
  • length of the marriage

If you have received inheritance prior to marriage, your spouse may still be able to claim on this in certain circumstances.  

If you receive an inheritance after your marriage breaks down, it is less likely a court will include it as part of the matrimonial assets. However, each case is different, and the court will consider your specific circumstances before making an order.  If there are insufficient matrimonial assets to meet the family’s future needs, the inheritance may be included as a matrimonial asset in order that it can be divided to meet these needs.

Future inheritances are generally excluded from a financial settlement unless this is likely to make a significant difference to the settlement. In many cases a future inheritance is simply too uncertain to consider. However, In some cases, the financial settlement process can be adjourned until the value of the inheritance is established. This is sometimes the case if the inheritance is expected to be significant and if the funds are expected in the near future.

In order to protect your inheritance, you can consider a pre- or post-nuptial agreement. While a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial does not guarantee that you will retain your inheritance when you divorce, it will assist. You can use such an agreement to state what you would like to happen to your inheritance if your marriage ends.  A court will take such an agreement into consideration when making a financial order.

You can also protect your inheritance by keeping the asset separate while you are married. Additionally, on divorce it can be sensible to obtain a Consent Order. A Consent Order will prevent your former spouse from making a future claim against you.

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