Fine art can be highly valuable, often worth hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, when a married couple is seeking a divorce, asset division of the fine art is a particularly heated issue. Here’s a look into how a Washington State court will typically consider the issue of dividing fine art in divorce.
To Whom Does the Art Belong?
Art that is handed down to an individual through a trust or will, or that is obtained by an individual prior to marriage, is considered to be the sole property of that individual. Under Washington laws, an individual's property is not subject to division during a divorce. As such, for the one who owns the art independently, it will remain theirs even when dissolving a marriage.
When Art is Jointly Owned
While the individual property remains with the individual, joint property—called community property in Washington State—does not. Community property is acquired over the course of the marriage. Even if only one person pursued purchase of it, both parties within the marriage share ownership of it.
As such, the art will be up for division. Washington State courts must divide property in a way that is “just and equitable,” but not necessarily equal. For fine art, it will most likely need to be appraised by a third party.
Then, the art may be split between the divorcing parties based on value, or may be sold and profits may be divided. In some cases, one party may be able to keep the art in exchange for giving up the house, or may be able to maintain the art with a high alimony payment, etc.
Improve Your Chances of Keeping Fine Art During a Divorce
Because of the high emotional, sentimental, and financial value that fine art often carries, parting with it during a divorce can be challenging. While you will need to divide community property in a way that’s fair and equitable, if your fine art is a precious asset to you, you may be able to hold onto it in exchange for something else. To improve your chances of keeping your fine art during a divorce, you’ll want an attorney on your side that will act as your legal representative.
The Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny can help you understand the laws of property division during separation, and advocate for you. To learn more about our services, call us today to schedule a consultation at 425-460-0550.