Two of the most traumatic experiences in a person’s life include divorce and the death of their parents. Both events occurring in a short timeframe must be even more difficult. How then does Family Law deal with the inheritance received by the already grieving spouse? Can an inheritance be left out of the property division if it was received near separation?
Judges in Family Law interpret what the Family Law Act means. Recently their views on inheritances have changed. Once the Courts’ view was settled. In summary, the other spouse cannot be regarded as having contributed significantly to an inheritance received just before or after the relationship ended, except in rare circumstances. Late in time inheritance tended to be kept by the spouse who received it.
Since 2014, the approach of the Family Court has changed though a series of five important decisions. These cases took a less mathematical approach.
Some things are now clear. First, the Court must consider all assets of the parties at the date of trial. Second, the asset pool includes assets acquired after separation but before trial. Third, it is wrong to make any existing assets excluded or immune from consideration in the Court process.
But there is some good news for a case well argued. An inheritance forms part of the asset pool for division between the parties. The important task for the Court is to consider the level of contribution by each party. The contribution value of the inheritance must be weighed up by the Court in assessing all of the various contributions made by the parties from start to end. A decent inheritance should weigh as a significant contribution by the person who received the inheritance. The inheritance and the value of that inheritance properly should change the division percentages for the asset pool. So with good argument and reference to the right cases, a good outcome can be reached which gives proper consideration and weight to an inheritance.