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Protect your art collection from divorce

In Illinois, marriage often means merging two lives and continuing favorite pursuits together, such as art collecting. However, if the relationship ends in divorce, a cherished art collection can become part of the marital assets up for division. If you have artwork that pre-date your marriage or you and your spouse have amassed a collection together, remember the following points during a divorce.

Keep a detailed art inventory

Maintain a detailed inventory of your art collection and update it regularly. You can use spreadsheets or specialized art inventory software to identify all the crucial data you need to document. You must identify and document all artwork you collected before or during your marriage. Document the artwork locations, take and upload photographs and keep bills of sale and certificates of authenticity.

Determine origins and sales

As you navigate the challenges of divorce and dividing assets, take extra care to note when you acquired each work of art. The critical information is whether you acquired the pieces before or during the marriage. If you were separated, note any sales made during that period because the sale income can affect other financial considerations of the divorce.

Prenuptial agreements

Consider safeguarding your existing or inherited art collection using a prenuptial agreement if you get married. This type of planning can prevent premarital assets from becoming lumped in with marital property. Note that artwork protected by a prenuptial agreement may become marital property if marital assets were used to care for or restore the artwork.

If you plan on expanding your art collection after your marriage, you can also designate what will happen to those acquisitions in a prenuptial agreement.

Art as an asset

In a divorce, artwork is like any other asset. It gets divided based on its monetary value as if it were a car, home or any other possession. If you and your spouse jointly acquire art while married, it is considered a joint investment like stocks and bonds and becomes community property.

While a piece of art may have deep sentimental or intrinsic value to you, its monetary value is the only factor that matters in the legal sense. Consider negotiating and potentially using your art collection as a bargaining chip while discussing the overall division of marital assets with your spouse.

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