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San Jose Divorce Attorney > Blog > Property Division > Community Property And Your Art Collection: What To Expect In Your Divorce

Community Property And Your Art Collection: What To Expect In Your Divorce


Many couples in the San Jose area who are getting divorced own a significant amount of property that is likely to be classified as community property and divided in their divorce case. Some of that property may be difficult to value, and may have complex attributes that will require specialist appraisals and valuations. For example, art collections are a common type of complex property that presents complications in divorce cases and can be difficult to value and to divide. In particular, with a collection, the spouses might not want to split up certain pieces and may try to focus on keeping the collection together as a whole. If you are getting divorced in California and have an art collection, what should you expect? Consider some of the following information from our San Jose property division lawyers.

Gather All Purchase and Appraisal Records 

It will be critical to ensure that all art is accurately classified and valued. Accordingly, it is essential to gather all documents and records you have pertaining to the purchase or prior appraisal of any art in your collection. It could turn out that some, or all, of your collection is actually separate property and is not subject to division. In addition, knowing the purchase price of the artwork may be important for assessing any present valuation and change in value for art that is divisible as community property.

You Should Not Expect the Collection to Remain as a Complete Entity 

First, given that California community property laws require all community assets and debts to be divided equally. Unless it turns out that the art collection is separate property and is not actually subject to division, it will be treated as community property, which California law says should be divided equally between the spouses. In situations where you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement about how to divide community property, it may be possible for one of you to retain the entire art collection. However, unless you reach this type of agreement, you should expect that the court will divide it accordingly. The classic example would be the parties dividing their Beanie Babies—popular collectible plush toys from the 1990s—in open court.

Art Can Be Notoriously Difficult to Value 

The market value of many different types of assets can fluctuate over time, but the market value of artwork is often especially volatile and can fluctuate significantly based on cultural moments, recent art sales, and other factors. Indeed, according to Artsy, tracking the changing market values of various artworks can be difficult and complicated. In that article, arts economist Clare McAndrew explains that there are several models used to track the changing values of paintings, sculptures, and other artworks across time and space, and even those models can vary.

As such, the price you paid for a particular artwork, or for the collection as a whole, may be substantially different from a present valuation. It will be important to work with an appraiser who has experience doing appraisals and valuations for the specific kinds of pieces that you and your spouse own to ensure that any division of the art collection is in fact equal.

Contact a Property Division Attorney in San Jose 

If you have questions or concerns about property division involving artwork or any other complex assets, one of the experienced San Jose property division attorneys at Foster Hsu, LLP can assist you.




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