Retirement plans are often one of the significant assets up for distribution in the course of a divorce. Careful attention should be given to the type of retirement plan at issue to avoid tax penalties and/or early withdrawal penalties to the extent possible. Additionally, the type of retirement plan will dictate what will be necessary in terms of documentation or court orders to effectuate the rollover. Non-qualified plans include individual retirement accounts or IRAs. These can usually be rolled over by completion of a form with the applicable institution. You should still do a direct rollover to a similar account to avoid taxes and/or withdrawal fees.
If you are getting divorced, you may have accumulated retirement plans during your divorce. Sometimes clients are surprised when they learn that the retirement plan that they have earned in their own name is subject to equitable distribution. Not only can your current spouse be ordered to be named your beneficiary in the event of your death, but they actually will be awarded a percentage of the benefits at the time of the divorce. It is important from the outset to obtain the plan documents from your plan administrator so that you know what options you have in the event of retirement on the selection of a survivor beneficiary as well as so you know under what terms a spouse can receive a distribution. In addition, just because your court order or agreement awards your spouse a percentage of your benefits, does not mean this is automatically going to be tax free. You must also have the order drafted in the form of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Most plan administrators have sample language that they will approve and it is a good idea to ask your plan administrator if they have sample language. You must always have your plan administrator approve the QDRO that is prepared before you send it to the Court to have the Judge enter it as an order.
Retirement plans are often one of the significant assets up for distribution in the course of a divorce. Careful attention should be given to the type of retirement plan at issue to avoid tax penalties and/or early withdrawal penalties to the extent possible. First, retirement plans must be distinguished between qualified plans and non-qualified plans. Qualified plans include defined contribution plans such as 401Ks as well as defined benefit plans such as pensions. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) will be necessary to distribute a qualified plan. Non-qualified plans include individual retirement accounts or IRAs. A QDRO is not needed to distribute these plans.