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When a picture paints two words -- community property

Whatever one's taste in art, there is little doubt that into every creation, the artist is likely to have poured his or her heart and soul. On this basis, an artist may not consider such items in terms of material possessions. In California, it may come as a shock to an artist to discover that one's intellectual property may be considered community property in divorce proceedings.

Whatever form the art takes, if it was made during the time of the marriage, then it is likely to be included on the list of community property. Artworks may be completed but as yet unsold, or still in progress, but they still count the same. Any works that were sold during the time of the marriage may also have to be assessed on the basis of how much income they generated. Having clear records of all items, along with details of their production timescales, will assist in clarifying the division between community and personal property.

Discussions over things like licensing agreements may become quite complex and, in addition, have the potential to become quite emotionally charged. It may be necessary to involve other advisers with more pertinent knowledge when it comes to evaluating artistic works. Any attempts to hide assets, or to obfuscate information about valuations or sales, will reflect badly on the artist and may have a detrimental effect on court decisions.

An independent appraisal of the various artworks is typically necessary. Once a clear picture has emerged of all assets, it will allow California couples to negotiate in order to offset other assets or liabilities. Negotiations may also cover copyright and future earnings in order allow both parties to come to a mutual agreement on the distribution of community property.

Source: The Huffington Post, "For Artists, Divorce Means Splitting Up the (Art) Assets", Daniel Grant, March 3, 2015

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