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Family heirlooms in a divorce: Factors to consider

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2021 | Asset Division

The “To-Do” lists seem endless when facing a divorce. Juggling everything from pets to property sometimes leaves family heirlooms overlooked. Many heirlooms have little worth aside from sentimental value. However, when emotions run high, precious family heirlooms can be seen by a spouse as simply another high-ticket item to be divided as marital property. Here are three questions every potential divorcee should ask themselves to avoid losing their valuable family heirlooms.

Are heirlooms considered marital property in Tennessee?

People going through a divorce appreciate a little “good news.” Inherited family heirlooms are personal property in a Tennessee divorce. This is true regardless of the heirloom being inherited before or during the marriage, as it is not considered marital property. If the heirloom was inherited during the marriage, documentation becomes even more important to establish ownership.

Can the ownership of heirlooms be established?

Here are a few steps to establish exemption of marital property:

  • Identify: List all items that could be claimed as inherited.
  • Documentation: Confirming ownership can come in many forms. Gather photos, appraisals, correspondence or documents that prove the chain of custody.
  • Secure: Remove and relocate inherited items to a place that’s inaccessible to the spouse.
  • Education: Empower yourself with knowledge about high net worth divorces.

A divorce lawyer will appreciate the due diligence in protecting heirlooms as personal property.

Did your spouse increase the value of the heirloom?

Although the inherited item itself is not marital property, the spouse may have a legal claim to any improvements or investments that increased the value of the heirloom. A current appraisal compared to a pre-investment appraisal can easily establish an increase in value. If this is not an option, then documentation that establishes the size and scope of their investment becomes paramount.

When facing the daunting task of dividing marital assets, remember that family heirlooms are private property. Regardless of monetary value, these precious items were inherited and meant to stay in the family for future generations.

 

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