During a divorce, parting with property and money is a natural repercussion. From losing a car to losing a home, there are things that you’ll probably have to say goodbye to when splitting ways with your spouse.

While dividing physical assets can be challenging, having to split family heirlooms in divorce can be downright emotional and overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know about protecting family heirlooms during a divorce.

Things Left to You in a Will or Trust

If family heirlooms were left to you via will or trust or were gifted to you after your marriage, these items are considered to be separate property. Specifically, RCW 26.16.101 names any items acquired after marriage by, “gift, bequest, devise, descent, or inheritance,” to be separate property.

Gifted items belong to you to the same extent as if you were unmarried – they are not up for the division in the event of a divorce. This law also applies to domestic partnerships.

Items Passed Down Through the Family and Acquired Prior to Marriage

Much like those things that are left to you after you’ve already married, those things acquired by you prior to marriage—such as family jewelry, artwork, ceramics, etc.—are also the property of you, and you alone.

Unlike community property, defined by RCW as property “acquired after marriage” by either domestic partner or husband or wife that does not meet the definition of separate property, explained above, separate property is not up for division. Instead, this property is yours to keep.

Disagreements Over Community vs. Separate Property

In some cases, there may be a disagreement over whether or not the property is separate or community. Even if one spouse acquired it from inheritance or prior to marriage if it was considered joint ownership of both spouses over the course of the marriage, it may be up for the division during divorce. To help you prove that your family heirlooms are in fact separate property and should remain with you after separation, you need an attorney.

Contact a Washington State Divorce Attorney Today

You can read more about asset division in divorce on our website. Or, if you want to find out specifics about your divorce case and whether or not you have the right to your family heirlooms in a divorce, call our attorneys today to set up a consultation. You can reach our Bellevue law office now by calling 425-460-0550. 

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington