Impact of inheritance late in a marriage

During 2018 and 2019, Melbourne Family Lawyers represented Elizabeth in a property settlement case arising from her marriage with Jeremy of about 20 years.  Elizabeth and Jeremy are both in their 50s. There are 4 children of the marriage, who were all still dependant at the time of separation.

Jeremy had been a high-income earner over the second half of the marriage; both husband and wife had studied and worked in the early part of the marriage.

As Elizabeth was highly educated, Elizabeth and Jeremy agreed that she would home school the children, and avoid the high cost of a private school education.

As a result of the many years which Elizabeth devoted to home-schooling the children, by the end of the marriage, Elizabeth had not been in paid employment for many years and found that her employment prospects were not good.

A few years before separation, Elizabeth inherited a sum of money that represented more than half the value of the parties’ total asset pool, which then consisted of a home, superannuation, and some investments.

About two thirds of Elizabeth’s inheritance was spent renovating the home and on an overseas family holiday. There was about one third left in Elizabeth’s bank account at separation.

Family Court Proceedings were issued, as negotiation attempts were not successful due to Jeremy having unrealistic expectations as to his entitlement.  But, prior to the case being heard by a Judge, we were able to negotiate a settlement that resulted in Elizabeth receiving 75% of the pool of assets, made up of the house and the balance of her inheritance and some superannuation.  Jeremy received 25%, made up of most of the superannuation and investments. 

The outcome reflects the significant contribution Elizabeth made to the asset pool, her lack of work experience combined with her age (which makes it difficult for her to re-enter the work force), and her ongoing care of the children.

Because of Jeremy’s high income, he is paying a high level of child support, but that alone is insufficient to support Elizabeth and the children, and Elizabeth is likely to have to spend some of her capital to support herself until she is able to find paid employment. 

It was worth taking Elizabeth’s case through the court system to put us in a better negotiating position and achieve a fair result.

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