Summary of how inherited assets are treated in Family Law cases

In discussing how inherited assets are dealt with in the resolution of family law cases it is important to make the point that every case is dependant on its own facts and while assistance can be obtained by reliance on previous written High Court judgements, they must be considered with a certain health warning. High Court cases generally involve “ample resources” cases whereas most family law cases are dealt with in the circuit court and involve assets of significantly lower value.

In this regard a decision of Judge Barr on appeal from the Circuit Court in 2018 in JBB -v- SMB is of interest as this is not an ample resources case.

This was a case of modest resources, and which dealt with inherited assets. The Husband had inherited a property as well as a farm which were of reasonably modest value (the house was valued by the Court of €130,000 and the farm at €70,000 and the wife had inherited a property which was valued by the Court at €65,000.

The Court noted the detailed list of circumstances that the Court had to take into account as set out by Denham J in the 2011 case of YG -v- NG. Included in those circumstances were the statement that inherited assets are not to be treated as the assets of both parties and the Court’s discretion must be exercised taking into account all of the circumstances of the case.

This statement was endorsed by the Court of Appeal in QR -v- ST where Justice Irvine confirmed that all assets had to be taken into account, but inherited assets and assets brought into the marriage must be treated differently.

In making its decision the Court decided that the Circuit Court had not made proper provision and held that the Husband should hold onto the house which he had inherited, the wife should hold onto the house that she had inherited and that the Husband should hold onto the farm. However, the Court awarded a sum of €10,000 to the wife in recognition of the fact that she needed to have an operation and would require recuperation as a result of kidney failure and he awarded a further €15,000 by reason of an acknowledgement that the Husband had always worked outside the home while the wife had primarily worked inside the home and as such had not accumulated sufficient credits to be entitled to a contributory pension.

This is an interesting case in how the Court dealt with inherited assets in a modest resources case.

It further highlights the reality of most cases which depend on their own circumstances while taking into account the factors set out in Section 20 of the Divorce Act.

 

For any further information in relation to any family law matter please don’t hesitate to contact either Brendan Dillon or Lorna McArdle on 01-2960666.