Divorce is a complicated, financially and emotionally taxing process. In high-asset divorces, the process typically takes longer.
In addition, one or more of the parties in a high-asset divorce typically have significant retirement account balances. These are some strategies for protecting your retirement from equitable distribution.
Know the numbers
Before you tie the knot, note the balances in all your retirement accounts. These contributions are non-marital property. However, any interest you accrue and any contributions you make during your marriage are subject to distribution. You should also know the balance of your spouse’s retirement accounts before marriage and when you file for divorce. The amount in your spouse’s accounts could balance the amount in your accounts.
You can also offer your spouse other assets in exchange for keeping your retirement accounts intact. You may also purchase life insurance that names your spouse as the beneficiary, but it should be equal to what your spouse would receive in the divorce. Consider negotiating vehicles, artwork, your home or other valuable assets in exchange for your pension.
Learn about your plan
You should know how your retirement distributions will occur. For example, can you pull a lump sum or will you receive annuity-type payments? In addition, will your spouse receive payments even after your death? You may have the ability to negotiate split payments between you and your spouse when your retirement begins paying out, allowing you to keep your accounts untouched at the time of your divorce.
The key is to reduce your taxes and penalties, which are often significant when you pull money out prematurely. Some legal remedies, such as CDFAs if a judge forces you to split your retirement with your spouse.