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How to divide collectibles, collections in a divorce

Dividing assets in any divorce can become problematic. Spouses often disagree about what should be shared in the first place, and may also quarrel over how to divide complex property, such as an investment plan, real estate, or a business. But difficulties can also arise over tangible objects, such as collections or collectibles, that belong together and lose significant value if scattered during a divorce. This can include art, stamps, figurines, comic books, or antique jewelry.

Here are some suggestions.

  • Determining ownership - Decide first whether the property even belongs to both partners in the first place. For example, if the collection was owned by one of the spouses when he or she was still single, received as an inheritance, or identified as a gift (by the giver) as intended only for that one spouse, then Arizona law will probably treat the collection as separate property ... and not at all subject to "dividing." This can get complicated, though, if new items were added to the collection during the marriage. For more information, see this article.
  • Determining value - Another issue centers on getting an accurate appraisal. This often requires a professional expert witness. An experienced appraiser should be able to determine not just the value of an individual piece, but also the value of a full, undivided collection - and how much the collection improved in value because of any additions made during the marriage.
  • Determining distribution - Once you know collectibles are eligible for division and their value, you still must figure out if and how to divide them. Even in "community property States" like Arizona, people do not have to split every asset in half. However, the overall distribution (of all marital property and debt) should be roughly equal. In other words, if one person keeps possession of a full collection, the other should receive other money or assets of comparable value to balance the equation.

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