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Dividing artwork during a Maryland divorce

Each and every divorcing couple has a unique set of assets. For some, a collection of artwork will play a central role during the property division portion of their divorce. Dividing artwork can pose a number of challenges, and many Maryland couples are unsure of where to begin the process. The following tips are offered in the hopes of assisting spouses who must address a collection of artwork within their divorce.

The process begins with a comprehensive assessment of the entire collection. Spouses should list all pieces owned, when they were acquired and what the value of each piece is believed to be. Where possible, include the price paid for each piece, and make a note of pieces that were purchased prior to the marriage or after the date of separation.

Next, the services of an appraiser are called for. Spouses can choose to work with one appraiser, or they can each hire their own professional to place a value on each piece within the collection. If the appraisals come in at significantly different values, the couple can agree to settle on a value that falls between the two numbers, or they can hire an additional appraiser to narrow down the discrepancy.

Once a value has been placed on each item, the negotiations can begin. Artwork holds a different emotional value for each individual, but this is an area of divorce law that can become incredibly heated. In some cases, couples will cede their interests in assets such as the family home or investment accounts in order to keep a treasured work of art.

As with any aspect of property division, determining which spouse will retain various pieces of art is a process. It is important to enter into negotiations with a clear understanding of the current and projected value of each piece, and with a plan in place as to which pieces one is attempting to gain. By following the steps outlined above and taking the time to make informed decisions, Maryland couples can reach a property division settlement that is fair. From that point on, each spouse can work to rebuild his or her collection around those pieces that were gained during the divorce.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Tips for Dividing Art in a Divorce or Death", Daniel Grant, Sept. 21, 2014

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