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Dividing retirement assets during a divorce

From Millennials to Baby Boomers, every generation to carefully consider retirement assets when going through a divorce.

The end of a marriage signals more than just the end of a personal relationship, it also means the end of a financial partnership. As a result, personal property, debt and investments must be split between the couple.

In addition to taking current financial needs into consideration, it is also important to keep the future in mind. Although the need for splitting retirement assets may be clear to those going through a divorce later in life, it is important for younger couples to keep these assets in mind as well. These assets accumulate over time, making their value difficult to replace.

Basics of retirement assets and divorce

Whether choosing to split retirement assets or estimate their value to adjust the distribution of other pieces of property, the valuation of these assets must be carefully pursued. An accurate valuation involves complex calculations. Although the details vary depending on the specifics of each account, the first step generally involves a review of whether the asset is vested or not. An unvested account is not yet complete. In these instances, the employee is likely still working and the employer and employee are still making contributions to the account. In contrast, a vested account is one that has met all requirements and is now fully owned by the employee. It is important to note that employees generally own a percentage of their account while they are still working.

Once a valuation is estimated a decision as to the split of this asset can be made. A special court order may be required to ensure the asset is split according to the agreed upon instructions. A QDRO, or Qualified Domestic Relations Order, is often required to ensure a beneficiary receives distributions from an ex-spouses retirement account. This order provides detailed instructions to the administrator of the account. This document is used to ensure that an ex spouse receives a portion of an unvested account in the future. Simply writing out an intended split in divorce paperwork may not be enough. The administrator of the retirement asset may not be obligated to follow a divorce settlement.

Importance of legal counsel

Although this information is helpful, it is important to note that retirement accounts vary widely. A close examination of the language is important to help better ensure that there are no surprises in the future. As a result, it is wise for those going through a divorce to contact an experienced property division lawyer to help protect your interests.

Keywords: divorce asset division

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