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Steps to take before you divide your personal property

You may have a good idea of which items you want in the divorce long before you sit down to work on the agreement. However, strong emotional attachments to personal property can get in the way of amicable negotiations, and you could even cheat yourself out of a fair deal if you inflate the value of an object simply because you want it.

A professional appraiser can identify the true fair market value of your antiques, collections, artwork and other personal items so you and your spouse can reach a settlement that is truly fair.

Inventory your household

To make sure that you do not miss anything, you and your spouse need to do a thorough inventory of your entire household. You should document items with pictures and a brief description. Those that may need an appraisal should also have details such as provenance, unique features and measurements that may make a difference in their value on the market.

Find an appraiser

Congress has authorized the Uniform Standards for Professional Appraisal Practice as the source of qualifications for appraisers. In addition, professional organizations often provide certifications, and many experts have affiliations with or are members of associations such as The National Association of Appraisers. If you are using a mediator to help you work through your property division amicably, he or she may know of an appraiser who specializes in the types of items you need valued.

Learn the fair market value

Your appraiser may use one or more approaches to determine the value of your items. If your item is something unique, such as a painting, valuation may include research to learn what other paintings by the same artist have sold for at auctions and galleries and through private dealers. The condition of the artwork and the desirability of the piece are also factors. An expert may research the market to learn how much it would cost to replace the item, as well.

Once the appraiser has placed a dollar amount on each item, you and your spouse may be better able to decide which items are actually worth negotiating for, and how you may best bargain for the things that are most important to you.

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