Couples who have recently finalized their Massachusetts divorce and divided up assets are understandably eager to move on to the next phase of their lives. But closing the book too hastily on your previous relationship could result in some unintended financial consequences.
If you have recently parted ways with your spouse, here are five important steps you need to take to protect your assets and shore up your retirement plan:
1. Make sure the retirement plans are divided according to the divorce agreement.
The IRS requires a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) in order to divide money in a retirement plan between two parties. A QDRO is a court-ordered document that specifies how the assets will be divided. In many cases, you must also provide this order to your retirement plan provider, and follow up with them to make sure the document has been received and processed.
2. Change the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts.
Even if you've had a new will drawn up due to the divorce, you still need to change the beneficiary designations on each of your retirement accounts. People often neglect this step because they think their will supersedes all other documentation. In reality, the opposite is true.
3. Review your Social Security options.
If you have been married more than 10 years before the divorce, you may be eligible for half of your spouse's Social Security benefits. Get an estimate of your ex's Social Security benefits and compare them to yours, because you can't claim both.
Also, be aware that if you remarry prior to age 60, you will not be eligible to collect Social Security based on your ex-spouse's work record. If he or she remarries, however, that does not impact your eligibility.
4. Reassess your investment allocation.
Consider your own risk tolerance when it comes to investing. Often, a divorced person finds that their investment portfolio's asset allocation is more in line with their ex-spouse's risk tolerance than his or her own. Make changes to your investment mix based on what's appropriate and tolerable for you given your current savings level, profession and personality.
5. Review and re-establish your retirement savings goals.
Post divorce is an apt time to estimate what your needs will be in retirement and then set your goals accordingly. Establish a new financial plan based on retirement expenses for one, rather than a couple. Make regular contributions to your retirement plan a priority.
A Massachusetts divorce is an emotional, life-altering event, and it's understandable to want to put the past behind you. Before you set off on your new path to a long and happy retirement, though, make sure you take the time to get your house in order and position yourself for financial security in the future.
Should you be in the midst of a divorce or contemplating divorce, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation to learn about division of retirement accounts during a Massachusetts divorce.