How do I equitably divide artwork in a divorce settlement?

When couples divorce, every single object, asset and debt that they share must ultimately be addressed in one way or another. As a result, the process of determining property division as it pertains to a divorce settlement can be understandably complex. Some couples opt for a relatively peaceful property division process, while others fight over every single spoon and light bulb they own. It is safe to assert that most couples tend to fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. For the most part, they are able to agree on property-related matters, with several contested matters up for debate during the negotiating process.

One particularly challenging asset that couples tend to have difficulty dividing equitably is artwork. Some artwork is financially valuable, other pieces have sentimental value, while still other pieces are both financially and emotionally significant to both parties. Dividing these pieces can be truly challenging.

If a piece simply has financial value, it may be best to have the work appraised and to consider both its present and future worth in the calculus of “who gets what” at the end of the settlement. Whether the piece is sold or it is retained by a single spouse, the work’s worth can be relatively easily divided among the whole of a couple’s assets. If the piece has sentimental value, it can be more difficult to split equitably. It may therefore have to be treated as a piece up for trade among other sentimental pieces such as jewelry, furnishings or other artwork.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Tips for Dividing Art in a Divorce or Death,” Daniel Grant, Sep. 21, 2014


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