Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wife not entitled to share of husband's inherited wealth

I would be interested to see the full report of this case, mentioned in The Telegraph yesterday.

The case involved a couple who had been married for twenty-five years and had a total wealth of between £21 and £24 million, most of which had been inherited by the husband from his father. The wife sought a £7 million share, but the husband argued "that applying the “sharing principle” to give the wife a stake in her husband’s inherited wealth would be an “invasion” of a fortune he owed to his father".

Mr Justice Moylan agreed, ruling that the wealth of the couple was “not the product of their endeavours”, so the sharing principle should be ignored. He said the husband’s wealth was 'non-matrimonial' and that it was fair to base the wife’s award on a “generous assessment” of her needs. Accordingly, she was awarded a lump sum of £3.3 million, on top of her £1 million assets, which would enable her to buy a £1.1 million house and give her an income of £115,000 a year, plus additional "discretionary" spending.

Whether the case actually breaks any new ground is not clear from the Telegraph report, but hopefully a full report will shortly be available - I'll put it on Family Lore Case Digest as soon as I find it.


  1. Hi John
    I don't think this does break new ground. In White-v- White,  Lord Nicholls did say that inherited assets could be excluded from sharing unless required to meet reasonable needs. However there comes a point in a long marriage where inherited assets do get mixed up with matrimonial assets as Lord Justice Wilson (as he then was) stated this year in K v L where the husband walked away with £5m on inherited assets of £50m. This case will be relevant although in that case, the parties led a relatively humble lifestyle and husbands needs could well be met by that sum.
    in this case I assume it was about whether the assets were intermingled and what the wife's reasonable needs were within the context of the long marriage and their standard of living.
     The Judge here must have taken all the facts into consideration, and what seems to have happened (subject to reading the full report) is that the Judge has not been particularly generous with the award when conducting the s25 exercise. That's a pity given the parties did lead a very nice standard of living and in their mature years they will still have expensive although altered need. So perhaps an appeal is on the cards.
    Meeting the needs of wealthy women isn't as straightforward as it looks at first sight even given the big numbers involved.
    I wrote a blog post about the subject of providing for needs of wealthy wives earlier in the year.

  2. Hi Marilyn,

    Thanks for that. I think you're probably right that the case doesn't break new ground - I was only really being cautious when I said that in the post!


  3. interesting to note that the court of appeal are hearing a case (Mansfield) where a husband appeals the decision to allow his wife a large part of damages awarded for horrible injuries sustained in an accident pre-marriage. this is ripe for a decision for the husband if only because (if upheld) he will have to sell a specially adapted bungalow to satisfy the wife's award. also the daily male have printed very unflattering photos of the wife making her look like a puppy murderer.

  4. Interesting - I've not seen that (not a Daily Male reader). I wonder if it will alter the position in the leading case of Wagstaff.


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