As your elderly relatives die, you probably continue to receive treasured family heirlooms. These heirlooms, of course, are considerably more valuable to you than they are to your spouse. Now that you are thinking about ending your marriage, you may wonder if your soon-to-be ex-spouse has a legal ownership interest in your family’s heirlooms.
Determining whether your heirlooms are part of your marital estate should be high on your priority list. After all, Arkansas is an equitable distribution jurisdiction. This means you and your spouse have an equitable interest in everything you jointly own. Your spouse has no interest in items you separately own, though.
How did you receive your heirlooms?
Before beginning to divide your marital estate, you should think about exactly how you received your heirlooms. If they were a gift to both you and your spouse, your heirlooms may be subject to property division during your divorce. Gifts someone made explicitly only to you, though, are probably not part of your marital estate.
Do you have a marital agreement?
To protect your heirlooms during a future divorce, you may have included them in either a premarital or postmarital agreement. If so, the agreement probably says who owns the heirlooms. Still, your spouse may try to attack the validity of your agreement, so you should ready yourself to defend it in court if necessary.
How much are your heirlooms worth?
According to the Press-Enterprise, heirlooms can be difficult to value, as they often have greater sentimental value than market value. Still, if you think your spouse may try to claim ownership of your family’s heirlooms, you may want to try to value them.
Once you come up with a value for your heirlooms, you may be in a better position to negotiate. Ultimately, if your family’s heirlooms are part of your marital estate and subject to property division, knowing their value may allow you to exchange something of equal value for exclusive ownership of them.