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Artwork highlights issues of non-traditional property division

When married couples in Dayton go their separate ways, there will be numerous assets to divide between them. Many of these are common and are expected in a divorce, like a home and furnishings, vehicles, bank accounts and other typical assets. Property division can become more complex in a high-asset divorce, however, with nontraditional assets like artwork sometimes dwarfing the value of others.

In one instance, a billionaire East Coast real estate developer and his wife had been married for nearly 60 years before divorcing. The couple's art collection included works from Picasso to Warhol. It was estimated by some to be worth $1 billion.

Therein lies one problem, however. In attempting to pin down the relatively subjective value of something like art, both parties to a divorce may hire appraisers who can in turn provide vastly different estimates, perhaps reflecting the competing interests of the divorcing spouses. If a couple does not have a prenuptial agreement outlining the disposition of valuable works of art, the only solution may be either to negotiate a compromise valuation, or simply sell off the collection and split the proceeds.

The latter option, of course, is something most would likely rather avoid, given the often highly sentimental value associated with artwork. In addition, one spouse or the other may be an art dealer or an artist themselves. In such a case, artwork may have a business association above and beyond the personal value.

Artwork can potentially be a complicating factor in property division on many levels. A legal professional can help divorcing couples negotiate a value -- enlisting professional appraisal services as necessary -- or craft a prenuptial (or postnuptial) agreement that outlines how the assets should be handled, whether a single work or an entire collection.

Source: Town and Country, "In a High Profile Divorce, Who Gets the Art?," Julie Belcove, Jan. 10, 2018

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