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Judge rules in property division of vast art collection

Even an amicable divorce in Florida may quickly become contentious when asset division begins in earnest. One partner may have a sentimental attachment to some items, or both parties may each simply feel they have a right to ownership of certain assets. One couple is currently in a property division battle over an art collection believed to be worth more than $700 million.

The collection of 165 masterpieces includes works by Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and Picasso. Warhol's "Nine Marilyns," a silkscreen painting of Marilyn Monroe, is valued at $50 million. The couple hired separate appraisers for the collection, but the two professionals could not agree on a total value for the artworks. Because the couple could not decide how to divide the art collection, a judge ruled that many of the precious works would be sold at auctions and others split between the couple.

Although the art collection belongs to a limited liability corporation in the wife's name, by law, the works are marital property. The 59-year marriage began when the couple had no assets at all, but the wife had a keen interest in art and began collecting immediately. The husband made his fortune in real estate. The division of the real estate holdings of the couple also became a source of contention during the divorce.

An equitable property division can allow a divorced couple to maintain standards of living similar to those enjoyed during the marriage. Most Florida couples will not have hundreds of millions worth of assets to divide, but this may make it all the more critical to achieve a just portion of martial property. An attorney can be an important advocate in reaching this goal.

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