Determining fair market value of collections during divorce

Many spouses may think they know best when it comes to the value of their personal collections during a Michigan divorce. However, using online research or a guesstimate figure could skew the divorce settlement considerably in one spouse's favor.

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, experts recommend hiring a professional appraiser for collections such as the following:

  • Paintings or prints
  • Baseball cards
  • Antique furniture
  • Jewelry
  • Guns
  • Stamps

Collections of books, bookplates, coins, clocks, watches and musical instruments typically also warrant a professional valuation. 

The goal of the appraiser's research is generally to determine the fair market value of a collection, which is the amount that a reasonable buyer could be expected to pay for it. To reach this, the appraiser must first correctly identify the collection and its components, and then analyze their condition. This may include these factors and others:

  • Inscriptions or markings
  • Title or subject matter
  • Author, artist, publisher, manufacturer or creator
  • Unique features
  • Dates

Often, each spouse hires his or her own appraiser, and because these professionals may be needed as professional witnesses during litigation, it is a good idea to hire someone who is willing to appear in court. However, National Appraisal Consultants, L.L.C., warns that a professional appraiser is not there to protect the client's best interests, but to provide an accurate valuation. Therefore, he or she must be completely unbiased in determining value. If an appraiser cannot be objective and impartial, or has any conflict of interest, he or she should not take the job. 

More than one appraiser may be needed if there are multiple types of collections, and it is a good idea for the couple to discuss whether the potential value of each collection offsets the cost of the appraisal. In some cases, negotiations may be more cost-effective.

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