Keeping it in the family: divorce and inheritance

Keeping it in the family: divorce and inheritance

We have surveyed over 2000 people to find out their views on divorce proceedings. When it comes to inheritance, it seems people feel very differently about assets inherited before marriage and those inherited during marriage.

Nearly two-thirds of people (64%) feel that assets inherited before marriage should not be included in a divorce settlement – this is even more pronounced among women, where the figure sits at 71%.

For assets inherited during a marriage, a much smaller proportion of people (39%) feel that they should not be included in a settlement.

How does the law treat inherited wealth in a divorce settlement?

When a marriage breaks down, if one of the couple’s inherited assets are needed to provide for the family in the future, then the Court can order them to be included in a settlement. Despite what people told us in our survey, this applies equally to wealth inherited before or during a marriage. Decisions on these issues are always dependent on the individual facts of a case – there are no hard and fast rules. In short, how the Court treats inherited assets is a hugely grey area and each result will depend on the facts of the individual case, driven by what a family needs.

Our figures indicate that on the whole, women feel more strongly about attempting to ring-fence inherited wealth than men – 71% of women believe wealth inherited pre-marriage should not be included in any divorce settlement compared to only 56% of men. Ultimately, anyone who wants to try and hold inherited wealth separately once married should take legal advice on putting in place a properly executed Pre-Nuptial Agreement. Once married, they should then take steps to avoid intermingling inherited wealth with matrimonial finances.

In situations where one-half of a couple inherits significant wealth during a marriage, it is also worth considering a Post-Nuptial Agreement. Parties should be aware that the Courts are not obliged to accept the terms of Nuptial Agreements, but they will consider them as highly persuasive.

If you would like to get in touch with Jolene Hutchison, Partner and Head of Family and Divorce, please contact her on 01494 478603 or email jfh@blasermills.co.uk