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Art collection at center of high-asset divorce

Protecting one's assets during a divorce can be a challenge. While many Florida spouses simply want a fair division of assets, when their definitions of fair do not match, they may expect a drawn-out legal battle. Unless a couple can arrive at a settlement about how to separate their belongings and valuables, the court may have to step in with a binding decision. One couple going through a high-asset divorce recently learned the fate of their extensive art collection.

When the couple married in 1959, they had almost no assets, but they began immediately collecting art. Over their 59 years of marriage, the two accumulated an enviable art collection, including works by Andy Warhol, Picasso, Jackson Pollack and Jeff Koons. A single Warhol, the "Nine Marilyns," is estimated to be worth about $50 million.

Each spouse hired an independent appraiser to valuate the collection, but the two professionals arrived at vastly different totals, both for individual pieces and for the collection as a whole. The estimates ranged from $625.6 million to $788.8 million. The judge decided it was impossible to equally divide the art. Therefore, he divided the pieces about which the couple agreed in value, and he ordered the remaining pieces to be auctioned and the proceeds split.

Splitting valuables in a high-asset divorce often involves a complicated balancing act. Spouses may have to trade cash for property, and, often, the sale of assets is the most efficient way to ensure a fair division. A Florida spouse facing complex asset division would do well to seek an experienced attorney to improve the chances of obtaining a fair share of the marital property.

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