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Dividing art collections in a divorce

When some couples in Texas get a divorce, they might have artwork to divide. There have been several high-profile divorces in which artwork created conflict during property division. For example, in a divorce between a real estate developer and his wife, a trustee of the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, artwork by Picasso, Warhol and others were among those in dispute. One issue was the appraisal of the art's value, which differed by hundreds of millions of dollars. Another was figuring out who had paid for the art.

In a case involving the son of the billionaire George Soros, a precedent was set in New York regarding the unreliability of invoices to show who had paid. Furthermore, it is significant whether the funds came from a joint account or a person's own account. Ownership may also be more difficult to determine if one or both people are artists or dealers since the personal and business accounts could be mingled.

Couples are increasingly including artwork in their prenuptial agreements, but these documents can be challenged. The prenup of two prominent gallery owners was dismissed because it was written in German, which the woman could not read at the time she signed it. Another potential issue is what happens if the couple makes a donation and has a gallery or wing named after them, and then they divorce.

In Texas, a community property state, artwork and other assets acquired after marriage are generally considered shared property. Appraising that property could be the first step in determining how it will be split. However, couples may reach an agreement that does not involve splitting all assets 50/50. In some high-asset divorces, one person might also be the main breadwinner, and he or she could be required to pay spousal support for a certain amount of time.

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