Legal Memorandum: Inheritance in Divorce Proceedings in HI

Issue: May the value of a future inheritance be considered part of a marital estate for the purposes of division of assets in a divorce proceeding in Hawaii?

Area of Law: Estate Planning & Probate, Family Law
Keywords: Divorce proceeding; Future inheritance; Marital estate
Jurisdiction: Hawaii
Cited Cases: 204 Conn. 224; 659 N.E.2d 1104; 474 N.E.2d 1137; 756 P.2d 1131; 797 N.E.2d 411; 77 Ill. Dec. 142; 428 N.W.2d 446; 116 Ill. Dec. 336; 815 P.2d 1145; 205 P.3d 548; 929 So. 2d 940; 19 Mass. App. Ct. 364; 232 Mont. 235; 518 N.E.2d 1316
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 07/01/2013

A 2009 case, Schiller v. Schiller, 120 Hawaii 283, 205 P.3d 548 (Haw. App. 2009), addressed the propriety of the trial court receiving evidence on possible inheritances when determining the division of assets.  In Schiller, the wife argued to the court that her husband stood to inherit real property from his mother worth in excess of $3 million.  Id., 205 P.3d at 572.  The husband contended his mother intended to leave everything to her grandchildren, thereby disinheriting him. 

As this was a case of first impression, the court took the time to review the various ways in which other courts had treated the issue and found a split among the many jurisdictions.  The court looked at such cases as

In re Marriage of Benz, 165 Ill.App.3d 273, 287, 518 N.E.2d 1316, 1324, 116 Ill. Dec. 336, 344 (1988) (holding that "there is generally no error where a court [in dissolution action] considers a future or anticipated inheritance when distributing property"), and In re Marriage of Dalley, 232 Mont. 235, 239-40, 756 P.2d 1131, 1133 (1988) (holding that the lower court did not abuse its discretion by considering that wife would shortly receive a substantial inheritance when dividing the parties’ assets); but see, e.g., Parker v. Parker, 929 So. 2d 940, 946 (Miss. App. Ct.2005) (holding that an expectancy of inheritance is not an asset for equitable distribution purposes); E.H. v. S.H., 59 Mass. App. Ct. […]


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