Friday, April 18, 2008

What Once Was Ethan Allen Is Now Just Sticks N Stuff

James J. Gross, in the Maryland Legal Crier blog, has another of his fine, common-sense posts about a topic most attorneys discuss often with their clients. While some items of personal property are worth fighting over, most things are not worth as much as the attorneys' fees incurred in the fight. I recommend that you read his following post and take it to heart.

"Dividing up the furniture and furnishings can be a difficult task in a divorce. But this is the tail wagging the dog. Most of the value of the marital estate is in the house and the pension. Furnishing and furniture might account for 5% or less.

Sometimes when everything else is agreed upon, folks get stuck on dividing the china, crystal, silverware, jewelry or the frequent flyer miles. Whenever this happens, and it is not logical or profitable, I usually think that they are hanging on to the marriage or the fight instead of the property.

If you want a reality check, jewelry is worth one third of what you paid for it, the minute you walk out of the store. Look at the classifieds and you can find used diamonds, which in truth are not one molecule different from new diamonds, going for as little as $500 a carrot. Gold may be selling for more than $800 an ounce, but your jewelry is measured in grams, and the pawn shop will give you around five dollars or so a gram for it.

Furniture depreciates around 20% a year, so if it is five or more years old, it is essentially worthless until it becomes an antique. And if you don’t believe me, go to an auction or a used furniture store.

The Kelley Blue Book is online to tell you what your automobile is worth. Don’t forget to subtract the car loan.

Each spouse can hire an appraiser to value the real estate at $400 or $500 each, then if they disagree they can appoint a third appraiser. Or you can ask a realtor. Or you can simply agree on the value of the house. Zillow.Com will give you a value for free. If you still want to fight about it, Zillow also gives you a range of values or you can fiddle with the assumptions and comparables to get a new value.

I mention all this so that you can weigh the value of what you are fighting for, against the legal fees that it is going to cost to get it."

It's easy to get caught up in the fight or to stand on principle or to seek "fairness", but we need to keep in mind the big picture and make intelligent decisions. It is often wise to skip some battles and instead try to balance the benefit with the cost of fighting or negotiating. You'll later be thankful you did.

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