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Dividing the wine collection in a divorce

On Behalf of | Mar 31, 2022 | Family Law

Dividing property in a divorce is never a simple process. For some couples, however, it’s more complicated than for others. The more assets you have, the more time, thought and professional advice you’ll need to help ensure they’re divided fairly.

Collections can be particularly complicated to divide – particularly when both spouses have had a role (and a financial stake) in building them. If you and your spouse have spent vacations building your art, sculpture or rare book collection, the thought of parting with any of it can be painful. 

The same can be true for a wine collection. If you and your spouse have made a considerable investment in collecting wine from around the world and building a wine cellar, determining what to do with your wine collection is going to take some time and expert guidance.

Determining the value

While your wine collection likely holds sentimental value, it likely has considerable financial value as well. Regardless of whether you’re going to divide it or only one of you wants to keep it, you need to find out what it’s worth. 

Experienced vintage wine retailers, auction houses and certified experts can give you an accurate valuation. There are databases as well, but it’s best to get an individual valuation – particularly if it’s worth many thousands of dollars.

You have a number of options

Once you know what it’s worth, here are some of the choices you can make:

  • If you both want to keep some of it and both will have a place to maintain it at the proper temperature and conditions, you can divide it based on value. Whether you divide it in half or one person gets the majority of it will need to be negotiated or litigated.
  • If one of you has no interest in it and/or has nowhere to store it, you can work out which marital assets can be substituted based on the appraised value.
  • If neither of you is interested in keeping it or would both prefer the money, you can sell your collection.

For some people, a big part of the appeal of a wine collection is the memories attached to purchasing the wine. If those are memories that now bring you more pain than joy, you may prefer to be rid of them. However, whatever you decide to do, don’t underestimate the financial value of this asset.