In a newly published case, Mrs Justice Baron of the High Court awarded a divorced woman a lump sum of more than £8.7 million from a substantial estate inherited by her former husband.
The award was intended to meet her financial needs, in spite of the fact that, as inherited assets, the estate would not normally qualify as dividable property.
The judge noted:
“Prima facie, this makes it non matrimonial property and places it in a special category. As such the Court should be slow to invade it without good reason.”
Quoting the precedent of White v White  UKHL 54, however, she added:
“In the ordinary course, this factor [inherited property] can be expected to carry little weight, if any, in a case where the claimant’s financial needs cannot be met without recourse to this property”…Accordingly, I accept that primarily this is a needs case given that the Estate was pre-acquired. There is no assertion that the wife deserves any element of compensation.”
The award represents 32.5 per cent of the husbands total assets of £18 million – “appropriate given the origin of the wealth”, said the judge. She added that in this case, meeting the wife’s needs and her right to share her husband’s assets were “essentially the same.”
The woman was married to her former husband for 26 years.