Question: My mother died recently and left her estate to me and my two siblings. What worries me is that my ex-wife — who, thank goodness, I was able to divorce 31 years ago — might come crawling back looking to get her claws into my share. Is she entitled to a penny of my inheritance?
Answer: As part of a divorce, most people have a financial order that sets out how they want to share their assets. Commonly, that order includes a clean break clause that prevents either the husband or the wife from making any further financial claims in the future.
If you had a financial order, including a clean break, then your ex-wife will not be entitled to any of your inheritance.
If, however, you either had no order or your order did not include a clean break, then your ex-wife could bring a claim against you. This claim would cover all your assets, including the sum of what you had inherited from your mother, although the judges do have discretion to treat inherited money differently when deciding what orders to make.
Given that you divorced 31 years ago and you have only recently inherited the money, your wife would have a real battle to persuade a judge to order you to share your inheritance with her.
If your ex-wife has remarried, this may also have an impact on her entitlement to bring a claim.
What's your problem?
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona is legal director in the real estate group of Foot Anstey LLP in Exeter (email@example.com)
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.