One of the high-value marital assets that many couples battle over is artwork. However, what if one or both of the spouses are the artists? Under the law, artwork created during a marriage, as well as future licensing revenues and copyrights, are considered marital or community property even though it was created by one spouse. That can apply to works of art such as music and writings as well, but we'll focus on actual artwork here.
Make a Thorough Inventory and Valuation
If you are an artist preparing for divorce, it's essential to make a complete inventory of your artwork -- created before the marriage and during it -- whether it has sold or not. If it has been sold, you must list the sale price. Any works that haven't been sold need to be appraised to determine their value. Both spouses can choose their own appraisers and then negotiate a value. Unfinished works need to be assessed also, usually at a fraction of their ultimate value.
Most artists want to keep their work until and unless they sell it. In many cases, couples and their attorneys can arrive at an agreement so that the artist can retain the pieces and the other spouse will get a percentage of their value and/or other assets instead.
When listing all of your artwork and other assets, you need to disclose any licensing documents you have for your work. If you've formed a business around your artwork since your marriage, the value of that business will need to be determined and divided as well.
Artists who have copyrighted their works will need to negotiate the future earnings from that copyright. The creator of "Peanuts," Charles Schulz, negotiated a settlement with his wife when they divorced that gave her a gradually declining share of future earnings.
What Artwork Isn't Marital Property?
Artwork created before your marriage isn't considered marital property, nor is anything created after the separation or divorce filing, depending on the state. Further, payments for your work that were agreed upon before the marriage but received afterwards are not included in marital assets.
If you're an established artist when you marry, you can avoid many of these issues with a prenuptial agreement. Of course, some people are struggling artists when they tied the knot, with their spouse supporting the couple, but go on to be wildly successful during their marriage. If you don't have a prenup or post-nuptial agreement, it's essential to have a divorce attorney with experience in property division involving works of art.
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