As you probably already know if you are thinking about divorce in Florida, state law requires equitable division of all marital property. That includes things that are easy to value, like bank accounts, and those that are more challenging, like a business. In high net worth divorces, the assets that need to be valued and divided include jewelry and artwork. Here's what you need to know about appraisal of art, jewelry, and collectibles in divorce so that you can get the value you are entitled to in property division.
Valuation of Art and Collectibles in a Florida Divorce
Dividing artwork and collectibles can be challenging for two reasons. First, the items are often unique. This means, of course, that it is impossible to find an identical item that has recently sold to use as a comparison for the sake of valuation. If you and your spouse have had an item for several years, it may no longer be worth what you paid for it; often, it will be worth much more.
Second, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles often have a great deal of sentimental value in the eyes of the parties to a divorce. Let's say you and your spouse were vacationing in London and visited an art gallery, where you saw a painting you loved and bought it. The painting might remind you of the trip and good memories of your marriage at that time, and you might have a deep emotional connection to it.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this; most of us have similar attachments to items in our home. But to the extent that your emotions cloud your ability to understand an item's financial worth, you could be cheating yourself in property division. If you are committed to receiving that painting in your divorce settlement, you may concede items of significantly greater financial value.
It is difficult to reduce the beautiful things that were a part of your life with your spouse to how much they are worth in dollars and cents. Unfortunately, that is a necessary part of the process so that you can receive a fair outcome in your divorce.
Valuation of Jewelry in a Divorce
In many ways, dividing jewelry in a divorce is similar to dividing an art collection. There is often sentimental value attached to the pieces, and they may be unique, making valuation complicated.
Many couples are surprised to learn that jewelry is considered part of the marital estate in Florida, because it is often given as a gift by one spouse to the other. But if you gave your spouse a piece of jewelry, or received a gift of jewelry from your spouse, and that gift was bought with marital assets (like money from your joint checking account), it is a marital asset subject to division. Many people are unwilling to give up a favorite watch or ring, and that is fine, but you should be aware that doing so may impact your ability to take other desired property when dividing marital assets.
If jewelry, or other artwork or collectibles, are not so meaningful to you and your spouse that you want to keep the items themselves, you may be better off liquidating the items and splitting the proceeds. Selling an item is, of course, the most reliable way to determine its fair market value. But what should you do if you don't want to sell your valuables in order to make property division easier?
The Value of a Professional Appraiser for Art, Jewelry, and Collectibles
We have discussed in this space the importance of having a professional appraise the value of a business and other assets that can be challenging to value. We will repeat that advice here. Although it can be tempting to skip an appraiser's fees and agree with your spouse to assign a value to jewelry, art, and collectibles, you could be cheating yourself by doing so. Particularly if a collection is large, a non-professional may make a wildly inaccurate assessment of its value. Also, if your spouse has information about the value that you do not, you could be operating at a disadvantage.
Unfortunately, not all appraisers are created equal. Some people may hold themselves out as professional appraisers without any formal training or credentials. The wisest course of action is to work with an attorney experienced in high net worth divorce who regularly works with appraisers and valuation experts.
It is important to use a reliable expert who is known to local courts to be experienced and trustworthy. If the judge suspects that your appraiser is not basing his or her estimates on substantive information, or worse, is "massaging" the numbers to improve your position, the court will not give credence to anything that this so-called expert says on your behalf. Similarly, you need to have an attorney who can walk the delicate line of advocating for the most favorable outcome for you while remaining credible to the court.
If you are expecting to need to value art, jewelry, and collectibles in your Florida divorce, contact us at Florida Divorce Law Group where we have the passion and experience to help you move forward with your life.