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How to keep your antiques in the divorce

You have always appreciated furniture from other time periods, and you have worked hard during your marriage to fill your home with valuable pieces that enrich your life. Now, your spouse is talking about divorce, and you worry that you will have to sell off your collection or lose some of your favorite pieces to your spouse during property division. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your odds of coming out of property division with what is important to you.

Determining the fair market value

You definitely don't want to rely on sentimental value, but you also shouldn't dig up receipts and base the value of your antiques on the price you paid. Instead, you want to know their current fair market value. There is a process to coming up with this figure, and the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers suggests that it is a good idea to talk to a valuation expert

The professional appraiser will probably want you to start by cataloging each item. This includes taking photos of the piece and writing down when and where it was made, who made or manufactured it, unique features, measurements and any other descriptive factors. 

With these in hand, the expert can check a variety of markets to find out what the item is likely to sell for. An analysis of the markets will probably involve researching local or international auction houses, retail galleries, liquidators and private and wholesale dealers. The professional must determine what is the appropriate market price for the piece. For example, it could sell for vastly different amounts based on whether a liquidator, private dealer or international auction house would be making the sale. 

Supporting your claim

Going to court with the dollar amounts in hand may be enough to convince the judge of your antiques' worth, especially if your spouse does not dispute the findings of your appraiser. However, what if your spouse also has the furniture appraised by a professional and presents a different amount?

Your best bet, in this case, may be the credibility of your chosen professional. If the appraiser you hired used the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, belongs to a professional association such as the American Society of Appraisers and is willing to come to court and testify as an expert witness, you probably have a much better chance of swaying the judge in your favor.

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