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Penalties and taxes in dividing a retirement account

Some North Carolina couples who are getting a divorce may have a retirement account that needs to be divided. This might require a document called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Dividing a retirement account may incur taxes and fees, and people may consult a certified divorce financial analyst at this stage. Working with a financial analyst may help ensure a more efficient transfer of funds with minimal costs.

A financial analyst might be able to point out that some plans for property division involving a retirement account may not be as financially sound as they appear. For example, one couple might agree that one spouse will keep the home while the other spouse will keep the 401(k). If the house has been paid for and is worth $200,000 and the 401(k) is worth $225,000, it might seem that the spouse with the retirement account got the better deal. However, the value of the 401(k) is tempered by the fact that if the spouse takes distributions prior to reaching the age of 59 1/2, there could be penalties.

A financial analyst may also be helpful in a scenario where a retirement account is evenly split. The analyst may advise a tax-free rollover for most of the money with a certain amount set aside for fees.

Besides a home and a retirement account, other assets that may need to be divided in a divorce could include bank accounts, investments, vehicles and any valuable collections. It is important for people going through a divorce to try to strike a middle ground between making sure they get their fair share of marital assets and dragging out the process over other issues. An attorney can help a client develop a strategy in this regard.

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