Family heirlooms are precious reminders from the past, regardless of their inherent value. Many people in Alabama assume that their heirlooms will stay with them after a divorce, regardless of how the object was owned during their marriage. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily how family law functions, and without proper planning, a beloved heirloom might end up going to an ex-spouse.
In 1993, Kurt Cobain — the late singer and front man for the band Nirvana — famously played a 1959 Martin D-18E guitar on MTV’s “Unplugged.” Sometime after Cobain’s death his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, came into possession of the guitar. Now, it belongs to her ex-husband.
Frances Cobain married Isaiah Silva back in 2014. Silva claimed that Frances then gave him the guitar, which some experts value at more than $1 million, as a wedding gift. Cobain denied that she ever gave her father’s guitar away, but her requests to have the iconic instrument returned were denied, and the judge overseeing the divorce ruled that Silva would keep it.
Whether inherited before or after saying “I do,” family heirlooms can be tricky to deal with during a divorce. If kept separate from marital assets, most people in Alabama will keep their heirlooms in property division. However, any commingling of assets, such as gifting an heirloom to a spouse or storing an inheritance in a joint account, can make the matter much more complicated. Fully understanding how family law will impact property division and other aspects of divorce can help ensure that divorcing couples reach a settlement that they both find agreeable.
Source: NBC Los Angeles, “Frances Bean Cobain Loses Father’s Iconic ‘Unplugged’ Guitar in Divorce“, Bruna Nessif, May 16, 2018