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How to address the division of assets with sentimental value

On Behalf of | Nov 7, 2023 | Division of Property, Division of Property Divorce, Division of Property Divorce Family Law

An affluent divorcing couple’s assets typically range from tangible properties, such as luxury cars, to intangible items, such as retirement investments. Then, another category includes rare collectibles that often carry sentimental value. More than their financial worth, their value lies in the depth of a person’s emotional attachment to them.

Dividing sentimental assets can be tricky, as emotions tend to cloud rational judgment. Thus, knowing how to address this complex situation can help parties develop a workable agreement.

Ways to manage sentimental assets

The first crucial step is to determine if the prized possession – artworks, heirlooms, pieces of jewelry, limited edition collections or photographs – falls under California’s community property category. Community properties acquired or earned during the marriage belong to both parties.

While the ideal scenario is an amicable negotiation, this is not always the case. Heated disputes often arise as to who will retain the sentimentally valuable items. Before making a significant decision, divorcing couples must consider the following:

  • Sell: An appraiser may help assess the property’s fair market value. Doing so results in an objective estimate regarding how much the asset can sell for and they can split the proceeds 50/50.
  • Trade: A party may give up their stake in exchange for another marital property. However, parties must be wary of their spouses taking advantage of their sentimentality to receive more than they deserve.
  • Reproduce: Technology presents viable options to make copies of things, such as photos. While duplicates may affect the original’s quality, it may be a way to share the item equally.

Some cases still reach an impasse despite attempts to settle through mediation. When this happens, the court may intervene. The person holding a sentimental bond with the property in question must prepare to prove how it ties to them directly for higher chances of having the asset awarded to them.

Reason must guide emotion and vice versa

Sentimental properties are as much an emotional investment as they are monetary. So, it is unsurprising that some people want it bad enough that they are willing to spend more than they can or should. While this approach is understandable, it may not prove pragmatic in the long run. Parties must exercise flexibility and weigh their legal options cautiously, preferably with an aggressive advocate, to prevent unfavorable outcomes.