Inheritance – how do the court deal with it?

Following on from our blog about non-matrimonial assets here, the topic of inheritance warrants a separate blog given its complexity.

As we explained in the case of White v White [2000] UKHL 54, inheritance is considered entirely differently to all other property in the marriage. Such property can be received before, during or after the marriage and can include an interest under any settlement or trust.

Although the court looks at inherited property as different to all other types of assets in the marriage, this is not to say that the court will automatically exclude it and it is entirely up to the court’s discretion. The court is required to take the inheritance into account even if the ultimate decision is to exclude it from the pot.

The overall objective is that whatever the outcome, it must be fair. In the case of Norris v Norris [2002] EWHC 2996 (Fam) the court determined that the wife’s inherited property should not be excluded from her assets as this would mean that she receives credit for her contribution towards the inheritance and further credit if the value of the inheritance were deducted from her overall assets before division and thus unfair.

In addition to the overall general principles that the court considers when dealing with inheritance, there is added complexity depending on which type of inheritance is received. The court considers the nature and the source of the inheritance to be highly relevant and can be a reason to depart from the presumption that each party is entitled to an equal share of the matrimonial assets. The court must also look at other factors, such as the length of the marriage and the duration of time the inherited property has (if at all) been enjoyed by the parties.

Inherited property is often a complex topic and it is important that you obtain legal advice that is tailored to your situation. At Hunter & Uro solicitors we have the expertise to advise you on all aspects of family law. Serving Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters. Contact us on 01234 889777 for a free initial consultation.