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The art collectors divorce: dividing high value artwork

In a high-profile divorce, valuable assets often present quite a challenge in property division negotiations. One of the most valuable and difficult to determine disposition of is artwork. There are several reasons for the complexity of these negotiations.

First, the value of artwork has skyrocketed. Many collections have now progressed from claiming a worth in the millions, to boasting a billion-dollar price tag. However, these valuations are provided by art appraisers, who remain heatedly contested in courtrooms across the country by divorce attorneys. Two or more art appraisers rarely return an exact appraised value for any given piece. For this reason, attorneys claim that the only way to truly value art is to sell it.

Another reason disposition of pricey art pieces is so complex is because art acquired during a marriage is the same as any other jointly acquired asset, regardless of value. Pots and pans, or Picasso and Rembrandt, they are still assets acquired together by a married couple. A bill of sale for these pieces should not only name the buyer but should especially specify a payment account funds were received from. This piece of information will go a long way in helping to decide to whom it belongs.

Any party to a divorce in which assets of these kinds of value are to be negotiated should consult with a highly experienced attorney familiar with complex, high-asset divorces. These matters can carry on for months and sometimes even years. A knowledgeable attorney may turn out to be the best asset of all.

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

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