Almost all couples have household furniture and other furnishings that they divide when they separate. Household furnishings that are marital property are subject to valuation and distribution like any other marital asset. In valuing household furnishings for purposes of division, North Carolina state laws require the court to use the fair market value of the item as of the date of separation, not the replacement value. “Fair market value” is considered the amount an item would sell for in a voluntary transaction between a buyer and seller when neither of whom is under any obligation to buy or sell. Therefore, even though you may have paid $2,000 for your dining room table, the fair market value at date of separation would be determined based upon how much a buyer would pay for a used dining table. Many people tend to overestimate the value of their household furnishings and personal property because they attach sentimental value to items.
In some instances, people also have a tendency to overestimate the value of an item if they think that it is something that their spouse really wants. In valuing household furniture and other personal property, such as jewelry, tools and collectibles, it is important to remember that if you contend that an item is worth considerably more than the value placed on it by your spouse, the court may award that item to you at your value. In other words, if you contend that your spouse’s coin collection is worth $5,000, and your spouse claims it is worth $1,500, the court might award the coin collection to you at your value of $5,000.
Because of the volume of household items that most families accumulate, it can be an arduous and time-consuming task for attorneys and judges to identify, classify, and value items that may not have significant value. Consequently, whenever possible, most attorneys recommend that couples work together or with a neutral third party to equitably divide their household furnishings and miscellaneous personal property. If both parties are paying their attorneys $300-$400 an hour to deal with disputes over who should get the crystal collection or how much a used set of golf clubs is worth, the parties could spend more money arguing about how to divide the items than they are worth.
In cases where there is a large disparity between the parties as to the values of household furniture, furnishings, and other personal property, it may be necessary to retain a personal property appraiser to appraise the items. The cost of a personal property appraiser is another way that arguing over furniture can result in additional expense.
This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.