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If you have separated from your partner and are sorting out your property rights, does it matter if you are likely to one day receive an inheritance from, say, your mother, but she’s still alive?

As a general rule the type of cases in which the anticipated inheritance would be relevant would be where Mum was old, feeble, likely to die soon, had made a Will and had lost the capacity to change it.

However, the door is not shut on the Court taking into account prospective inheritances in other circumstances.   Even where there is only a possibility of an inheritance by one party, it may be in some circumstances unjust to the other party to ignore such a possibility.

In one such case the husband had made extensive improvements and performed maintenance work on the property of the wife’s mother.   Because of the husband’s efforts, the wife’s mother’s property had increased in value.  The Court found that it was likely that the wife would receive an inheritance from her mother when she died, and that inheritance would be larger because of the husband’s efforts. Accordingly, the Court took the wife’s possible inheritance into account when deciding what the husband and the wife would each get from their matrimonial assets.

In another case where there were limited assets between the parties except for shares held by the husband in a company set up under his father’s will and which he couldn’t get until his mother died, the Court delayed the case until the husband’s mother died.  The potential exists for such a case to be delayed, even for many years, in circumstances where justice and equity between the parties demands it.

Inheritances can be an emotive subject in family law disputes.  This is particularly so where one party may have contributed their inheritance to the relationship, but the other party is yet to inherit and will be able to keep their inheritance for themselves.  Even in cases where an inheritance is received post separation, it can be taken into account by the Court.  This is a complex area of law that warrants specialist advice.