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Putting a fair market value on unusual assets in your divorce

There are many potential pitfalls to dividing your assets when you divorce. There's often a concern about the marital home and who will live there. In some cases, one spouse could attempt to hide assets from the court to skew the process in his or her favor. Sometimes, the biggest issue is that you don't understand the value of many of your marital assets.

If you and your spouse do not agree on terms and there is no valid prenuptial agreement, the courts will decide how to split your belongings. Failing to properly value the assets acquired during your marriage could unfavorably affect the asset division. In order for the courts to create a fair division of assets, they need to know what marital assets exist and how much they are worth.

Collections are common places where value hides

Many people with disposable income develop hobbies that can become quite expensive. Whether your spouse has a state-of-the-art cellar stocked with with fine wines in your basement or a fleet of classic cars, these collections can hold a lot of potential value.

While you may not want any of your spouse's collection or hobby equipment, make sure you include at least the purchase price — if not the current market price — for anything of value.

Value items by determining price or fair market value

Different items require different approaches to pricing and valuation. In some cases, showing the price that you or your spouse paid for an item can determine its value for the purpose of divorce. This can be a good approach for assets that don't have straightforward pricing, like art and other kinds of collectibles. However, you should do adequate research to see if prices for similar items have gone up substantially. If they have, you need to seek expert advice.

Professional valuation for certain items may be your best option. Skilled and knowledgeable niche professionals can review valuable collectibles, classic cars, jewelry or art, to determine what the item is currently worth on the open market.

Land and investment properties may require assessment

Whether you own a cottage, rental properties or unimproved land, real estate prices are complicated. The markets can fluctuate widely, depending on many factors. Depending on when and how you purchased your real estate assets (other than your primary home), they could be worth substantially more than their cost when you bought.

Working with a professional assessor can help you put a fair market value on real estate assets. Even if you don't personally want to retain any of these properties, their overall value will have an impact on the total value of your marital assets.

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