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Protect yourself against unnecessary loss of investments during divorce

A divorce experience touches every aspect of a person's life with the ability for long-lasting and negative repercussions that are often not known about until it is too late. If such situations occur regarding financial matters, Massachusetts residents can too easily lose valuable equity or assets. Ensuring proper care and professional guidance for the handling of financial property division matters is important.

Retirement accounts are among some of today's most common assets to be divided between spouses during a divorce. Certainly there can be disputes regarding the appropriate division of the assets and couples need to find ways to come to mutually agreeable settlements. However, that is not the only consideration of importance. There are other areas that can leave one or both spouse with far less than originally intended if the actual distribution or division of accounts is not handled properly.

The small details matter-a lot

Care should be taken during the division of retirement accounts to ensure that the full value of the accounts is maintained during any transfer of funds. Following are some important guidelines that can help prevent the loss of some or all of your investments:

  • Pay attention to the process: A Qualified Domestic Relations Order is the best way to make sure that all important parties-the Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and local courts-are completely clear that any distribution is simply a portion of your divorce process and not some clever way that you or your former spouse are attempting to get your hands on the funds a bit early. If the latter is detected, you can bet that penalties and taxes will be assessed.
  •  Proper timing matters: The laws are extremely specific about when you can and cannot transfer money from investment accounts during the process of divorce. If you veer from this, your assets will be greatly reduced due to the taxes and penalties placed on them. There are very specific times at which you are allowed to transfer funds from a retirement account during a divorce and avoid taxes or penalties.
  • Use percentages, not dollar amounts: All divisions of assets should be stated in terms of what percentage of the investment each spouse is to receive, not in actual dollar amounts. The reason for this is simple-valuations can change and identifications of specific dollar amounts determined on one date may not add up on the date a transfer is to be made, leaving someone out in the cold.

A divorce is wrought with loss on many levels and it is important for you to work with the right professionals who can help minimize this and protect your investments against unnecessary loss. If you are facing a divorce in Massachusetts, it is well worth your time-and money-to consult with an attorney to avoid such situations.

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Johnson, Sclafani & Moriarty, Attorneys at Law
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