Berman & Asbel, LLP

Valuating an asset in Pennsylvania is more than picking a price

When you walk through a department store everything has a price tag. If you asked the salesperson to negotiate a lower price or barter for something else they would probably just laugh. That's how it works in a department store, but not during a divorce.

Property division during a Pennsylvania divorce is so much more than simply setting a market value for an asset and dividing them down the middle. For equitable division there is so much more to consider. Take for example a couple with a multi-million-dollar art collection containing pieces by familiar names like Monet or Renoir.

The collection in this instance included 47 works of art and was valued at $102 million. The simplest decision may have been to sell the collection and split it down the middle. However, that was not an option. Selling the collection could flood the market and both spouses wanted more than the money. The couple's divorce was fairly amicable, and although they gave it their best shot -- twice -- they were unable to agree on how to split the collection.

The problem was that each spouse valued the collection in a very different way. The wife saw the works of art as inspiration, sentiment and a collection of assets that could ease her stress, make her feel at peace. She had a strong personal tie to dividing the paintings.

The husband on the other hand viewed division of the collection as more of a business decision. He had wall space in his homes, and it needed to be filled. In his mind, the definition of a collection also included diversification of artists, eras and styles. Last, he saw the collection as a way to secure a line of credit with JPMorgan Chase, and the bank required a certain number of assets to be worth at least $750,000.

So how did they decide? A creative solution was found that involved determining a price-per-square-inch value to satisfy the wall requirement and keep the monetary value fair. The wife was allowed to choose a few paintings that meant the most to her. The rest were divided in such a way that they satisfied the varying wishes of both spouses.

Source: The Seattle Times, "The art of divorce: She gets the Monet, he gets the Renoir," July 28, 2012

If you need help with complex property division, our Philadelphia marital property page provides more information.

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