Dividing Property in Divorce: Fine Art, Furniture, Jewelry, Wine Collection

You may have decided what to do when dividing real estate and the retirement fund, but how about dividing property in divorce that that is valuable but perhaps to one person more than the other?

  • Antiques
  • Fine art
  • Family heirlooms
  • Jewelry
  • Wine Collection

Those items just listed are personal property, also considered marital property, and are eligible for division.

However, while it is easy to divide retirement funds, pension funds, investments, stocks, and even decide what to do with the marital home, it is much more challenging to decide what to do with personal collections. It is not as simple as itemized division, because some items are obviously more valuable than others.

It’s best to negotiate with your spouse and his lawyers to divide your art and heirloom collection. If you involve the courts, the court may decide on strategies that are not in your best interests.

For instance, a court may advise the sale of the entire art collection and division of the proceeds. Not many couples are in favor of an arrangement like this. If you can negotiate with your spouse, you can avoid much of the legal wrangling that takes place in court.

How do you decide on division of personal items?

Use the Appraisers Association of America to locate a certified appraiser in your area and then have that person appraise your art collection. Then you can mutually agree on how to split it up. If you have the courts handle it, they could send it to auction where you may not get a premium price. Since the value of art fluctuates so often, you will have to weigh the benefit of dividing and retaining your pieces or putting them up for auction.  

Even the personal collectibles like your spouse’s fishing gear, or your coin collection which you may not have thought of as very valuable at first, may have increased. Certain types of limited-edition collectibles, for instance, can fetch significant prices on sites like eBay. You may want to have a professional look these over before you split them.

When You Got the Collectible Prior to Marriage

Any artwork, collectibles, or heirlooms that were gifted to you prior to the marriage are your own separate property, and not up for division. There are some technicalities too, if you think they apply. For instance, if a family member gave you a piano that had been in your family for years for your wedding, and s/he said so on the reception video tape, that could be used as evidence.

There are several challenges that can crop up during the division of personal collectibles, and therefore, it's important to seek professional advice about what you should do. In fact, you must take even more care during the division of your antiques, because antiques and art appreciate over a period of time, unlike the car.

For legal guidance on how to divide your collections, call 425-460-0550, and schedule a consultation with lawyer Molly B. Kenny.
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Molly B. Kenny's Bellevue family law office is conveniently located on Lake Bellevue Drive, making it easily accessible to those in the greater Seattle area. Our divorce and child custody lawyers help men and women get the information, guidance, and compassionate representation they need.
Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny