When two people live together, they may pool their resources and contribute to the future of the union as a whole. This pooling can be an important consideration from a legal perspective, especially if they are unfortunate enough to go through a separation. This type of arrangement can have an impact, even if one of the parties was to receive an inheritance from an elderly relative, so if you are facing this type of situation at the moment, why should you proceed with some caution?
Some people might think that an inheritance is a purely personal matter, especially if a blood relative had given it directly to the individual following a separation. This logic would suggest that the inheritance should not be part of any asset distribution but should be the sole property of the individual named in the will.
However, this may not be the case as much will depend on the circumstances and how it's all viewed by a court of law. It may be necessary to treat the inheritance in a certain way when you claim it or even to leave it unclaimed until you get proper legal advice.
A family law court could consider that any assets received by one or other of the parties after separation are still the property of both parties to the marriage. The judge could look at the way that the individuals lived when they were together, and if they tended to pool their resources regularly, then they may want to look further at the actual terms of the inheritance. In fact, they may want to see if the other party made any contribution to the life of the party before they passed away, from a non-financial or financial point of view. If this proves to be the case, then they may rule that the inheritance becomes an asset in the separation pool.
When two parties go their separate ways, one party (sometimes known as the breadwinner) may need to cater for the future needs of the other. Once again, this inheritance may come into the picture here, and a judge may use it as a part of the calculation.
If you've just received notice of inheritance and are going through a particularly tricky separation, then you should talk with family law solicitors before you do anything else. It's best if you leave the money at source rather than cash it out or transfer it to any bank account until you have had specific legal advice.