14th Sep 2012
Will I get his mother’s money?
Author: YourLifeChoices
Will I get his mother’s money?

YOURLifeChoices member Mary has recently separated from her husband. As she only received a small settlement, she would like to know if she will be entitled to any future inheritance her husband receives.

Q. Mary?

I often read your segments on different questions people ask and I am hoping you can help me with this one. After 25 years of marriage, I am recently separated. I left with only a small amount of money and no formal separation agreement. My husband will inherit a very substantial amount of money after his mother passes away (she is nearly ninety).  My question is - will I be entitled to any of the inheritance seeing as we were together for so long?  Would it make any difference to my entitlement if we were divorced or separated? Or, will I legally be left out to dry?

A. Provided by Maria Monastiriotis, Accredited Family Law Specialist, Slater & Gordon
The Family Courts will only deal with an inheritance once it is received by the beneficiary.  If it has not been received it can only be taken into account in certain circumstances.
If an inheritance has been received, it will be included as part of the assets to be divided by the Court.  The Court will assess amongst other matters, the financial and non-financial contributions made by a husband and wife to their assets as well as the financial circumstances of both parties.  A spouse does not have to show contribution to a particular asset, but to the marriage as a whole.
It does not matter whether you are separated or divorced however, any application to a Court for a property settlement must be made within 12 months of your divorce becoming final.
It is recommended that you get legal advice.  A lawyer will obtain a financial history from you and give you advice as to your entitlements and whether you should take any action now or later.


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    14th Sep 2012
    The simple answer is "No" as you said that his mother is still alive. In other words your husband will not benefit until AFTER your separation or divorce. But check with a good solicitor, you may even be mentioned in his mother's will, I have inserted my son's exwife for a small amo.unt, she was my daughter-in-law for 18 years and mother of my 4 grandchildren.
    14th Sep 2012
    This is a really complex question. I would have thought that since you are already separated you could not expect anything from his mother's estate unless it was specified that you should. However, if the separation is not yet official maybe that alters the legal position - but who knows? Your mother-in-law may enjoy robust health, and much water could flow under the bridge yet!
    15th Sep 2012
    I would say not unless you are mentioned in his Mother's will--A friend of mine had a small sum left to him--from a family member--and he was told his wife was not entitled to any--and IMO nor should they be--
    15th Sep 2012
    Often in a settlement for a legal separation or divorce it often states you have no further claim against each other, in which case whatever you received is final. If you are included your ex could contest it in court but it is a very expensive exercise. In SA you have to use a "special" lawyer, not just one that handles your ordinary matters and you would both need one if it becomes necessary. That is the advice we were given by the Public Trustee and I know of a case where one beneficiary wanted to buy a parent's house and another refused.
    It went to auction and somebody bidded on their behalf and they just stood back and watched. The people ended up buying it anyway, and for less than they originally offered as the portion they were prepared to pay previously.
    15th Sep 2012
    The way courts and lawyers operate these days there is no cut-and-dried outcome that can be forseen for any kind of case. There are so many ifs and buts in every case, how good the presentation is, and the interpretation of the courts about certain elements, one cannot have the slightest idea of which way a decision will go.
    16th Sep 2012
    What an awful thought to want to gain from your Mother-In-Laws death. I hope she leaves her estate to whoever she would like to have it. In marriage or divorce an inheritance should remain with the immediate family and not become "common" property. I know this is not the legal system, but surely anyone with a heart would not take another persons inheritance regardless of circumstances.
    16th Sep 2012
    I have to agree with this in principle, but I suppose there could be other factors at play - such as the existence of children of this marriage perhaps under the care of their mother. Surely they should be considered, especially so if the father is neglectful or leading a profligate lifestyle.
    16th Sep 2012
    This kind of thinking horrifies me, what gives anyone the right to money they have not earned. Legally I don't know the answer, but I find this haggling over who gets what after a death is distasteful, but to start thinking about it before the death ir abhorrent.
    16th Sep 2012
    Whilst I can see where Pommy is coming from, after 25 years of marriage the expectation of a substantial inheritance can mold how you live your life as a couple.
    18th Sep 2012
    Sorry but why should you. The poor old dear is not dead and you are asking if you will get of her money when she goes.

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