Property division: The meaning of patrimony

There may be a term bandied about during the divorce process of which some couples may not be aware: patrimony. Essentially, in British Columbia -- as in the rest of the country -- patrimony refers to property division whether a couple is married or living in a common law relationship (or civil union). Family patrimony is comprised of the assets a couple shares that are up for division at separation or divorce and some of these assets fall under this category no matter to whom they originally belonged. 

Some of these assets could include a recreational property like a cottage, an RV or a home in the States; money that increased in a pension plan over the course of the marriage; furniture and any residences used by the family. Just as important to note are the things that aren't included such as income property, money in the bank, jewellery, stocks or bonds, anything received as an inheritance or gift and personal property. Some of these things, however, may have to be shared if a marriage contract is in place.

In a divorce situation, each partner is entitled to half of the value of the family patrimony accrued during the marriage, so a couple has to decipher what that value is. The net value is minus any debts owing. If the home belonged to one partner before marriage or civil union, the increase in its value is what would be divided upon divorce or separation.

There are many things that go hand in hand with property division in British Columbia. Getting the advice of a lawyer may help a client in the process of deciphering what is on the table when dividing property. It is best to have the proper legal advice to avoid errors.

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