Will my Inheritance still be mine if we get divorced?

For unmarried couples, the answer is usually straightforward. In most cases it will belong to the person who received it and they will not be under any legal obligation to share it. 

For married couples and civil partners, the answer is more complicated.  Firstly, there is an obligation to disclose the extent of the inheritance so it can be taken into account by the Court. Secondly, the Court will need to assess to what extent, if any, the inheritance should be shared.

Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 sets out the factors that are taken into account on divorce, including the income, earning capacity and age of each party. The Court will focus particular attention on the financial needs of each party and whether the other resources are sufficient to meet those needs. If there are insufficient resources, the Court is likely to include some or all of the inheritance for division.

If you are unmarried and want to ring-fence an inheritance, you should consider a cohabitation agreement. This can confirm how you want to treat the inheritance in the event of a separation, including any expected future inheritance. This is particularly important if you intend to buy or adapt a property together or have children.

If you are planning to get married, you should consider a pre-nuptial agreement, as this can protect your inheritance from any future claims on divorce. If you are already married, you should consider a post-nuptial agreement for the same reasons.

If you do separate in years to come, an agreement can make the separation or divorce process easier and the outcome more certain, without costly negotiations about finances. The very act of discussing and trying to come to an agreement will help to reveal what you have in common and where you are apart. It can also provide reassurance to parents who may be nervous about passing on family wealth without any protective measures in place.

For more information on this subject, please contact Stuart Duncan of Rowberry Morris Solicitors on 0118 982 3774 or stuart.duncan@rowberrymorris.co.uk.  Stuart advises on all aspects of family law and specialises in the issues arising from relationship breakdown. He has a particular expertise in complex financial matters, nuptial agreements and cases involving unmarried couples.

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