In the matter of Calvin & McTier  FamCAFC 125 (12 July 2017), the Full Court heard an appeal by a husband who argued that an inheritance received FOUR years after separation should not be included in the property to be divided. The Full Court held that the property to be divided in a matrimonial matter is the property held by the parties at the date of HEARING, not date of SEPARATION.
The husband’s counsel submitted a number of legal arguments to defeat the inclusion of the inheritance, including the proposition that if the inheritance was to be counted – the later acquired inheritance should be subject to a separate finding as to division (in that case, the inheritance equated 32% of the property pool, which the trial court awarded 65% to husband, and 35% to wife). The Full Court did not agree. The Full Court determined that a trial court has discretion to make decisions as to the whole of the assets of the parties, including assets acquired long after separation. To make matters worse, the husband was left to pay the parties’ costs.
The lesson here is that if your beneficiaries are separated, but have not resolved matters by a binding financial agreement or court orders (far preferred because of the finality), then you should be revisiting your estate planning and contemplating proper testamentary trust structures with adequate appointor and guardian provisions.
Also, if you have separated, but believe the cost of making a binding financial agreement and/or seeking court orders is “too hard” or “not worth the expense”, think again. It is far better to divide what is your marital pool, than risk dividing what is your later accumulated wealth. Whilst adjustments and contribution weighting may allow for a factor which compensates for your later accumulated wealth, you most likely will lose part of that accumulated wealth.
Life is a gamble, sometimes you win the gamble.