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High Court awards wife £8.7m in ‘needs’ case involving inherited wealth

Award to wife equates to 32.5% of net assets

In Y v Y [2012] EWHC 2063 (Fam) Mrs Justice Baron has awarded a wife a lumps sum of £8,738,000 in a case which, in the light of the wife's needs, required her to 'invade' the husband's inherited assets. The award represented 32.5% of the net assets. The costs incurred by the parties totalled £1.1m.

The husband's landed estate, extending to 1,495 acres, included:

The marriage lasted 26 years. Acknowledging that the origin of the wealth was on the husband's side, Baron J said:

"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. Nevertheless "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": White v White [2000] UKHL 54.

"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."

After restating at length the case law authority relevant to the case and analysing the needs of the respective parties, Baron J concluded:

"I have reached the clear conclusion that the fair result in this case is a lump sum of £8,738,000. This amount of capital represents a 32.5% share in the net assets. It leaves the Husband with 67.5% of the assets (some £18 million) which is appropriate given the origin of the wealth. The award fairly meets the Wife's needs and it encompasses any right that she has to share the assets. I so state because, although my calculation is needs based, it does involve sharing inherited assets which will be invaded to cover the award. In this case needs and the right to sharing are essentially the same."

The wife was represented by Robert Peel QC and Petra Teacher both of 29 Bedford Row (instructed by Farrer & Co), and the husband by Lewis Marks QC and Catherine Cowton both of Queen Elizabeth Building (instructed by Manches).