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Claim against a 22 year old inheritance

A woman has been awarded a share of her husband’s inheritance 22 years after they separated in a ground breaking divorce settlement. The couple, who met in 1979 and married in 1982, lived as husband and wife for just four years before separating. They had one child together and never formally divorced. After their separation the husband inherited £120,000 that he invested in property. Last year the property sold for a total of £1.1 million. The woman claimed that her husband had not supported her or their son throughout their marriage or after they split either financially or emotionally. She had not divorced him earlier as their child was young and she didn’t want him to suffer the effects of a messy divorce. The woman’s lawyers claimed that she had been financially disadvantaged because of the lack of support from her husband and that she needed security for housing and a pension provision. The Court took the view that the woman did have an identifiable ‘need’ and that this need could be met without any injustice to the husband, even though it was out of an inheritance he received after their separation. This case just goes to show the importance of ascertaining your clients circumstances in relation to previous partners. It also highlights the importance of using trusts to leave legacies to people whose estate may itself be open to third party claims, such as a divorcing spouse.

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