How to Ensure That Your Valuable Collections Are Equally Divided

By: Cris Drugan, ISA-AM, IPAV[OS]
Last Update: November 01, 2016

Divorce presents many challenges for both of the parties involved. The equitable division of valuable collections and property is one of those challenges.

Valuable collections can range from artwork and antiques to wine, jewelry, coins, firearms and collectibles. Most states require marital property to be divided equally. If both parties are unable to agree on the value of certain items or collections, a qualified professional personal property appraiser can be your answer.

Qualified professional personal property appraisers go through a rigorous training process requiring formal education on appraisal methodology, product knowledge, and connoisseurship. Testing, continuing education requirements, and scheduled re-qualification confirm that the appraiser is “up-to-date” on market conditions and all of the industry standards as set forth by individual appraisal associations such as the International Society of Appraisers, American Society of Appraisers, and the Appraisers Association of America. These associations also require their membership to follow the standards outlined in The Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP), a product overseen by the congressionally-authorized Appraisal Foundation. These criteria are designed to differentiate qualified appraisers from appraisers who are not qualified. Qualified professional appraisers all have training in principles of valuation and knowledge of the markets, and can fall into two categories:

  • Appraisers who are specialists and have knowledge focused on a specific area of expertise.
  • Appraisers who are generalists with broad experience in many areas.

It is imperative for parties to seek out appraisers who are knowledgeable in the type of property or collection they need valuated. 

A professional appraiser presents a qualified appraisal report based on thorough research and analysis of the product and the market to produce an unbiased opinion of value. The appraiser will help you and the court to understand the value of this type of non-standard property. Regardless of the report format, or style, all reports must provide the intended user the necessary information to correctly interpret the conclusions drawn by the appraiser. A credible appraisal report outlines many things, including who the client actually is, the function of the report (what value(s) are to be investigated), the intended use of the report, the parties that will be permitted to use the report, and the scope of work to be conducted by the appraiser. Also included should be a complete identification of the item or items, their condition, and relevant analysis and data to support the value conclusions. These value conclusions are a result of considering the appropriate marketplace to research, such as primary (new) retail, secondary (used) retail, or wholesale, as well as several methodological “approaches to value”. The Sales, Cost, and Income approaches to value look at different market data and events such as completed sales, asking prices, production costs, and present worth. The approach selected by the appraiser depends of the kind of property being appraised.

High-value property and collections should not be taken lightly. Although value can go either up or down, appreciation in value since the item(s) were acquired can be a real possibility. It is important to know the true value of your property and hire a professional, qualified appraiser who writes reports in line with the generally recognized standards for the appraisal profession in the United States. There are several appraiser membership organizations that can be easily accessed online where you can find a qualified and competent personal property appraiser, including the International Society of Appraisers, Appraisers Association of America, and American Society of Appraisers. Members of these organizations have fulfilled rigorous qualification requirements and are required to adhere to the standards set by The Appraisal Foundation. When using these sites, you can search for appraisers by both category and location.


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