Divorce, Death and the Wealth of Women in the UK

By: Jamie Wallis

More than 34% of the families in the UK own property valued above the IHT (Inheritance Tax) threshold of ?275,000. A little less than half of these households said they were unaware of the existence of this tax. When enlightened about it, 82% said that the threshold was unfair and not in keeping with current economics. Apparently this is due to the sudden soaring in real estate values.

A New Form of Lottery?

Is acquiring wealth through the death or divorce of a wealthy husband an exciting new from of lottery for would-be-millionaire women? The silver screen and literature – right from Jane Austen’s novels to ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ – there has been no lack of avaricious and charming women out to get the wealth of men by ensnaring their hearts. And while art is supposed to imitate life, do these gorgeous vamps really exist?

Widows

When it comes to widows, the answer is an emphatic No. It is true that there are the celebrity widows of the rich and famous, but till date they are just a handful. The average widow in the UK is, in fact, worse off than the average widower, and this is what demographic studies have shown steadily over the past decade. Women are still not at par with men in terms of investment and asset management. Women are still paid lesser than men though the margin is less wide than it used to be. So the message is loud and clear. If any woman is getting ready to make a career out of widowhood, she has to really work hard for it because only a super rich husband will be able to leave her comfortably settled for life.

Divorcees

A spate of highly publicised divorces in the recent past has raised the expectations of women looking forward to a life of luxury banking on their ex-husband’s assets.

It seems that the legal system of England is the ‘most lucrative’ when it comes to settlements for women, allowing lifetime maintenance charges and a generous helping of the assets. Scotland is not so enticing, since it states unequivocally that wealth and property accumulated by the man before the marriage will have no claims by the woman. Most courts in Europe do not offer lifetime benefits to the wife. The European Commission at Brussels is planning to implement new, uniform, and updated family laws for all Europe. The UK is still trying to introduce amendments in the divorces section, but the Commission aims at implementing the laws from 2008. The reaction to this is mixed in legal circles. Some feel that the British laws are fair enough, while others feel that women are getting away with making a fortune from their divorces under the existing system.

A Few Cases

The richest settlement in the country so far has been that of Beverley Charman, estranged wife of insurance giant John Charman. Out of the ?131 million assets of the couple, Beverley has got ?48 million, including ?8 million in property previously in her name. John has been arguing that his offer of ?20 million was good enough. Another couple battling out a lesser stake are Melissa and Alan Miller, with the former having won an award of ?5 million out of a fortune of ?17.5 million after three years of marriage. Meanwhile, the impending divorce of Heather Mills and Sir John McCartney is rumoured to hold a ?200 million treasure trove for the Beatle’s wife. Television star Chris Tarrant had an adulterous affair at 60, accepted the blame of breaking up his 15-year-old marriage, and felt that the ?10 million property plus ?5 million alimony paid to his wife was well deserved by him. On the other hand, Kenneth McFarlane is deeply unhappy about handing out ?250,000 per year for the rest of his wife Julia’s life, though he admits cheating her while she remained loyal.

Neither Rich nor Famous

Unfortunately, most women can’t bag a business magnet, media tycoon or sports star. The average settlement in the UK is about ?13,000 for women. 70% of the women being divorced are missing out on pension benefits. Most of them undergo a dire financial strain, and come out worse off. Many women give up work for the sake of raising a family after marriage. According to a recent survey, if a person marries at 25, leaves the job for the sake of family and rejoins at 45 post-divorce, then an income hike of ?20,000 to ?120,000 would be missed. Women face difficulties when returning to a career after a failed marriage, and this is the average.

The Derivation

The derivation is very obvious. Unless a woman can bag a millionaire, there is no hope for her to look upon divorce as lucrative. The average woman in the UK is still a loser through both death and divorce of the spouse. Lone mothers struggling with their children are not good material for media hype, but they are the common picture of divorced and widowed womenArticle Submission, and the millionaire club is only a minority.

Divorce and Infidelity
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