Find the fair market value of your antiques before you settle

When you begin making your list of assets and liabilities that you and your spouse will have to divide in the divorce, you may have to find out whether some of your personal property actually counts as an asset.

For example, maybe you and your spouse have a living room set of antique furniture. You know your spouse wants it, but should you give it up in favor of the boat?

Catalog your antiques

In this case, you want a dollar amount that you can bring to the table so you know how many of the assets you are likely to be able to get in return. You need to catalog each of the items in the set so you can take it to a professional antique appraiser. Here is what you should include in your identification of each piece of your furniture:

  • Photographs
  • What type of object it is
  • The materials it is made of
  • The techniques used to make it
  • When and where it was made
  • Who manufactured it
  • Distinguishing physical characteristics
  • Measurements, inscriptions and markings
  • A short description

With this catalog in hand, you and your spouse can seek out an appraiser. Be warned, though, that if your spouse does not like the fair market value that the appraiser provides, he or she may hire someone else to provide an amount that is not in your favor. Therefore, it is important to hire the right person.

Find the right appraiser

There is no certification or license necessary for someone to become an appraiser, but if you search a directory of a professional organization such as the American Society of Appraisers, you are likely to find someone reputable. This means someone who will use the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice, as most judges will accept this standard without question. You also want your appraiser to appear in court as an expert witness if your spouse hires someone else, so make sure to ask about this before you sign on the dotted line.

Ideally, you and your spouse will both feel satisfied with the value of the antiques, so you will be able to sit down at the negotiation table and work out a satisfactory and fair agreement based on the true worth of your marital property.

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