Divorce and Inheritance

During a divorce, things can get quite emotional. After all, it can be a very stressful time for couples, especially if children are involved.

When a divorce happens between two individuals there are implications that need to be considered. With the likes of assets and other finances to be sorted, it’s vitally important that you understand your position.

You may have received some valuable assets through inheritance. If this is the case then you especially need to know your rights and laws surrounding inheritance and divorce in the UK

In this post, we will specifically focus on the subject of inheritance and what you need to know about it in the context of divorce.

What is inheritance?

When we talk about inheritance in the legal sense we are referring to the assets that are passed down to an individual when someone passes away.

When an individual receives an inheritance it can be in a variety of forms e.g. cash, jewellery, cars, property, family heirlooms, etc.    

Are divorce and inheritance related?

The short answer is yes they can relate to each other. This is because anything one individual in a marriage inherits may be used in a divorce settlement.

Some people may even argue that inheritance is not part of the dividing of assets during divorce proceedings.

Can my wife claim my inheritance in the UK?

Before you get married anything you inherit is seen as your own separate property. But once a couple enters a marriage most of the assets will be seen as a joint ownership. So the inheritance that you claimed before your marriage could now belong to your partner also.

This means that should a divorce take place then your partner could be entitled to a share of your inheritance. 

However, according to laws in England and Wales, property inheritance doesn’t always get split when couples divorce. The courts have the power to make the decision, and will make an assessment that involves weighing each individual’s situation so they can make their decision.

For example, if other assets are not sufficient in meeting the needs of a particular spouse then inheritance may need to be used.  

So is inheritance split in divorce in the UK?

Inheritance can be viewed as very important to some people, especially if they are worth huge amounts of money. Their family may be very wealthy and pass down large amounts of money and other valuable asset. 

For this very reason, there are people who want to make sure this inheritance is protected should a divorce from their spouse occur. After all, their inheritance could get mixed up with all of the other matrimonial assets that will be divided.


How to protect inheritance from a spouse in the UK

One way to protect this inheritance is to enter into a pre nuptial or post nuptial agreement. These types of agreements can stipulate that inherited assets are excluded from other matrimonial assets in the case of a divorce or separation.

Another way of protecting your inheritance is placing it in a trust for your children. Trusts mean that you name your kids as beneficiaries and you also keep your inheritance separate from your marriage. Your children will be the sole owners of your inheritance as opposed to your spouse.     

Can couples be separated but not divorced and claim inheritance in the UK?

If you’re married in England or Wales and you do not have a will then your spouse will be seen as the main beneficiary of your inheritance under current inheritance laws. If you’re separated but not legally divorced then this will still be the case. 

Future inheritance after a divorce in the UK

Any future inheritance experienced after a divorce is finalised will not be added to the matrimonial pot to be split between spouses. 

Only in extreme cases might this happen. If the inheritance is huge and can make a substantial difference then an ex spouse may claim for their share. 

Furthermore, if the assets from a previous marriage were practically nonexistent and couldn’t be split properly then this new inheritance could be used instead.    

Brown Turner Ross: Experts in divorce 

We understand that divorce can be a stressful time for couples, which is why having issues such as inheritance explained can make things that bit easier.

If you are someone who is experiencing a divorce and want to get some advice on how the proceedings can affect your inheritance then please contact us today.

We have a team of helpful and friendly staff who have extensive experience in the divorce procedures and tax laws.