The division of family heirlooms in a divorce proceeding largely depends on whether the heirloom is considered marital property or non-marital property. In Minnesota, non-marital property is property that one party either; (1) acquired before the marriage; (2) acquired during the marriage by gift, bequest, devise, or inheritance from a third-party; or (3) acquired after the date the court values the property for dissolution purposes.
All other property acquired during the marriage by spouses either jointly or separately is considered marital property. There is a strong presumption in Minnesota that all property acquired during the marriage is marital property, and the spouse making a non-marital claim has a high burden of proving that the property is in fact non-marital. All marital property in a dissolution proceeding must be “equitably divided” by the court. If an asset is found to be a non-marital asset, that asset will be awarded to the spouse that received that asset and will not be considered in the overall “equitable division of marital property.”
Generally, family heirlooms are antiques or jewelry that has been passed down from generations through family members. These family heirlooms are typically inherited or gifted to one spouse from extended family members such as parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. If one spouse receives such a gift or bequest during the marriage, that heirloom will likely be considered non-marital property. The spouse will likely be awarded the family heirloom and the item will not be considered in the overall “equitable division of marital property” for the parties or that court to decide.