Inheritances and Windfalls in Perth Family Law for Married and De Facto Couples

After separation, an inheritance may be considered with the rest of the asset pool. The amount of the inheritance that a spouse or partner may be entitled to can depend on a variety of factors.

If you received money as a gift or inheritance during your marriage or de facto relationship, the court will often look at the intention of the person who provided the gift or inheritance. For instance whether that person intended for the gift or inheritance to benefit both parties of the relationship or just one party of the relationship. If a gift or inheritance is intended for one party only, then that gift or inheritance may be viewed by the court as a contribution on that party’s behalf.

As each family law case is different, the way an inheritance or future inheritance is treated can vary. If you are separating and have or expect to receive an inheritance, you should seek family law advice from an experienced Perth family lawyer regarding your property settlement.

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Case 1

In Singerson v Joan [2015] FamCAFC 238, the husband received an inheritance the year of separation. The wife claimed she was entitled to a share, whilst the husband thought otherwise.

The trial judge calculated the wife’s share based on the four years from separation until judgment and awarded her 46% of the total asset pool.

The appeal court held the view that the share is calculated on the basis of her contributions during the fifteen years of marriage and awarded her 47.5% overall.

Case 2

The husband appealed and was not successful in a recent lotto case.

The marriage was 20 years long.

The wife won $6 million 6 months after separation.

The trial judge at first instance, which means in the trial before the appeal found the husband had made no contribution to the lotto winnings.

On appeal, the husband argued that the Court at first instance was incorrect.

The husband presented a legal argument regarding the source of the funds and argued that the court failed to take into account the husband’s initial contributions.

The Full Court did not consider the source of the funds to be as relevant as the husband did.

When the wife bought the ticket, the parties had commenced the process of leading ‘separate lives, including separate financial lives.

That very important fact was critical in this decision.

This is a case summary only and does not constitute legal advice but it does indicate that when one party receives a lotto win, an inheritance or a similar windfall post-separation then it becomes a relevant part of the family law case.

Family law is very complex so when selecting your family lawyer they need to be very experienced in family law and the family law firm needs to be long-established.

Case 3

A Full Court of Australia family law case looked at how an inheritance should be treated in family law matters, that is upon the breakdown of a marriage which can be applied to a de facto relationship.

In this case, the husband inherited $2,810,000 of a total asset pool of $5,602,225.

When the matter first came before the court, the property including the inheritance was divided so the husband received 52% and the wife received 48%.

The husband appealed to The Full Court.

The husband and wife had an 11-year relationship with one child.

The wife had two children of a prior relationship who lived with the parties.

Both parties worked throughout the marriage.

The parties each made initial financial contributions.

The wife owned a property that was acquired for $555,000 and sold for $955,000 post-separation.

The husband had real estate investments and an interest in a trust.

The husband purchased an interest in his future inheritance being a property of his mothers that would pass to the husband and his sister. The mother held a life interest.

Despite the mother holding a life interest in the property the husband and wife spent $1 million improving the property. The wife contributed $150,000 towards the renovations.

The trial judge found that the husband made inadequate, false and misleading disclosure and that he was not forthcoming in giving information on the financial history of the parties even though he had been in control of those matters.

The appeal was dismissed.

Case 4

In a 15 year relationship, the husband inherited about $3 million from the estate of his father who died just before the parties’ separated.

The Full Court awarded the wife 47.5 % of a 7.4 million dollar property pool (which included the inheritance her husband received) based on her superior contributions during the marriage.

The parties had two children aged 13 and 10.

Both parties worked for periods throughout the marriage although the wife made more contributions during the marriage.

The wife assumed the majority of care for the children after separation.

The first judge, being the trial judge, found the wife was entitled to a 20 per cent share of the husband’s inheritance.

The trial judge found the wife’s entitlement was because of her contributions over the four years since separation when she had assumed primary responsibility for the care of the children.

The Full Court found that the trial judge erred in only looking at four years of the wife’s contributions to the children rather than across their 15-year relationship.

They took a more global approach when altering the property interests of the parties.

The Full Court on appeal said, “ Despite the timing of the receipt of the inheritance we consider that over this long marriage a global approach is appropriate.”

Please remember that this blog is not legal advice and you should consult a very experienced family lawyer from a long-established family law firm for specific family law advice and more detailed advice about these and more recent and important decisions of the Full Court about inheritances and how they may be treated in family law in Perth, Western Australia. That is how inheritances can be treated in a de facto or marriage relationship.

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