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Inheritance Part of the Asset Pool?
14 October 2013
In the recent case of Bishop and Bishop  FamCAFC 138 the Full Court examined a case where the wife had received an inheritance a year before the parties to a 21 year marriage separated. The Trial Judge excluded the inheritance from the asset pool, instead of adopting an "asset by asset" approach to assess the parties' respective contributions to this inheritance. On appeal, the Full Court agreed with this approach in the circumstances of the inheritance being received so late in the relationship, in circumstances where the inheritance had been "quarantined" from other property accumulated during the marriage.
The asset by asset approach meant that the court looked at their property the parties had acquired during the marriage, and assessed the contributions made by the parties to acquiring keeping or improving the value of that bundle of property. In the normal course of events that would pan out to be reasonably equal. It then looked at the inheritance and did the same exercise in relation to the inheritance as a separate item, where of course the wife could say that the husband made no contribution whatsoever.
The usual approach is a global one. In some cases, such as this, the court will adopt a two pools approach and it is appropriate to do so in those special cases.
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