What are the options when it comes to inheritance and divorce?

Dividing assets can be a very stressful process for couples going through a divorce, especially when there may be inheritance to take into consideration too. We’ll use this blog post to talk you through what the options are when inheritance plays a part in the divorce mix. Remember, we’re here to help our clients through every stage of separation, so if you need any specific questions answered, please book an appointment with one of our experienced family solicitors.

I’m due to receive some inheritance, does my partner automatically have access to a share?

So, the short answer is, no, not usually. If you have started your divorce proceedings already, the inheritance that you are expecting to receive does not automatically go into the joint matrimonial ‘pot’ which is split when the divorce goes through. However, it’s important to note that this is not guaranteed. It depends on your personal circumstances; how substantial the inheritance is going to be and whether the individual making the bequest is expected to die in the near future. In some cases, you may find that the court wishes to hold off on the divorce proceedings until after the inheritance is received so they can make a decision on how it will be split (or not) between the two parties. If it’s something you’re concerned about, we recommend getting in contact with a family law solicitor so they can talk you through the most likely options for your personal circumstances.

What about if you’ve previously received inheritance?

Again, this is not a straightforward yes or no answer as to whether your partner will have a right to receive some of the inheritance money or assets. When it comes to past inheritances, the courts will consider a number of aspects to decide what happens. These usually include:

  • What are the individual needs of the family? Are there young children involved and how will both parents be able to support them financially?
  • How long ago was the inheritance received? If it was fairly recently, this may be less likely to be included within the joint pot.
  • Whose name is the inheritance under? Is it just one of the separating couple or both?
  • Is there a consent order in place?  

Do I need to tell my spouse how much my inheritance is/was worth if they say I can keep it?

Decisions during a divorce are not always down to the court, in many instances they are down to the couple, and only come to the court when things are a little more complex or difficult. So, if you agree with your partner that one of you will be the sole beneficiary of any inheritance, this is unlikely to be a problem during the divorce and a consent order can be drawn up. One thing to bear in mind though, is if you do want to go down this route and opt for a consent order, the value of the inheritance will need to be disclosed.

Is there a way to make sure inheritance is protected should divorce proceedings start?

Yes, there are a few ways to protect inheritance in the event of divorce, however it may require some planning and unfortunately doesn’t always guarantee that you or your partner will be able to keep all of the funds/assets. We’ve provided some details below of some of the options available.

Pre- and post-nuptial agreements

You can choose to agree how the inheritance would be split in the event of a divorce and have it arranged as a pre-nuptial or even post-nuptial agreement. This option may not guarantee the inheritance is split as you wanted, however a judge will consider your wishes.

Consent order

You’ll need to get a consent order in place as part of your divorce proceedings in any case, but you can use this to lay out how you want any inheritance money split. You can agree on all the financial aspects of the divorce including property and pensions, plus inheritance too. These are designed to protect both parties.

The most important part when thinking about inheritance and divorce is to ensure you have the right legal information. By understanding the different possible outcomes for your personal circumstances means you’ll be better prepared to start or continue divorce proceedings. To book an appointment with one of our experienced family solicitors, simply get in contact.