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Author Archives: JRLK

Divorce and Retirement Assets

In a divorce, marital property is divided between the spouses. Marital property includes all things that have been accumulated during the marriage, including real estate, vehicles, savings accounts, and retirement assets. Retirement assets can often be overlooked. In order to reach an equitable division of property, it is important to understand what assets are available, what the value of these assets are, and what makes the most sense in dividing these assets.

There are many different types of retirement assets. Some, such as IRAs and 401(k)s are easy to determine the true value just by looking at a recent statement. While you may be subject to taxes and penalties, the funds in these accounts can generally be liquidated early. Other retirement assets, such as pensions, can be difficult to determine the value of, and you may need to hire an expert to value these assets. With a pension there is no way to receive funds until the retirement of the employee.

Once you have determined the value of the retirement assets you and your spouse can figure out an equitable way to divide these assets. Many times, divorcing couples immediately jump to “we’ll split them all equally” – meaning Husband will get half of Wife’s IRA, half of Wife’s 401(k), and half of Wife’s PERA and Wife will get half of Husband’s IRA, half of Husband’s 401(k), and half of Husband’s pension. This can cause a lot of headache, and extra expense, when it comes down to dividing the retirement accounts. Instead of focusing on splitting everything evenly, when developing a plan to divide retirement think about what will be required for the division and what the receiving spouse intends to do with those funds. You can still reach an equal division of the assets by offsetting the amounts rather than splitting each asset individually.

Sometimes a spouse wishes to use retirement assets after a divorce towards a down payment of a new house or payment of marital debt. In these situations receiving an award of the 401(k) or IRA will be much more useful than the pension.

Many retirement accounts will require a separate court order specifically regarding the division of that account – a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), governed by federal ERISA law. One QDRO can cost a minimum of $300 each. Some accounts (such as IRAs) do not require the separate court order, and other accounts (such as PERAs) allow for special language inserted in the divorce decree for division. You can save several hundreds of dollars by dividing the retirement assets in a way that minimizes the need for QDROs.

How To Get Through Probate Faster and With Less Hassles In Minnesota

Minnesota attorneys are well aware of the hassles and headaches which families face when a loved one’s estate goes into probate. The process can drag out, eating up not just time but also resources that would have otherwise gone to beneficiaries. Appointed personal representatives find themselves with burdensome responsibilities which can compound their grief. InContinue Reading

Will My Spouse Have to Pay My Lawyer’s Fees?

A frequent question I hear is “Will my spouse have to pay my attorney’s fees?” My answer to this is “Don’t count on it.” In Minnesota, attorney’s fees can be awarded one of two ways: need-based or conduct-based. Need-based awarded mean that one party cannot afford the fees and that the other party has theContinue Reading

How a Minnesota Divorce Starts: The Process and the Approach

A divorce officially starts with the service of the Summons and Petition. The Summons is a very short document (2-3 pages) which notifies the other party (the Respondent) that a divorce lawsuit has been started. The Summons identifies any real estate owned by the party, provides notice of parent education requirements, encourages alternative dispute resolution,Continue Reading

Trusts in Your Estate Plan

While many people consider a “simple will” an important part of taking care of their family after their death, they forget to consider including a versatile option: Trusts. Trusts come into being through a person’s will or a separate legal document establishing that trust. A person who creates a trust is called a “grantor” orContinue Reading

What Does It Mean to ‘Fund’ A Special Needs Trust In Minnesota?

Parents and caregivers of special needs children in Minnesota understand the importance of planning ahead to ensure the future care of their loved one. For most families, this includes working with a special needs lawyer to create trusts and other legal documents which provide for the continuing care of the child when their parent isContinue Reading

Why Every Adult Must Have a Health Care Directive

As an estate planning and family law attorney I cannot urge people enough to make sure their wishes are documented and, more importantly, their families are protected and prepared. A valid Health Care Directive is a critically important document that is so easy to get. It can truly make a world of difference for yourContinue Reading

How to Find a Lawyer

Once you have decided you need a lawyer, the next question is how do you find a lawyer? There are many different ways to find a lawyer, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the most common ways to find a lawyer: Referrals from Friends and Family By asking friends andContinue Reading

I just want a cheap and easy divorce!

A common theme among many going through a divorce is the desire to have a “nice” divorce in the most cost-effective way possible. There are many different opinions on how to accomplish this. Today I will explain five options and give some pros/cons for each. I will start off with two general caveats. First ofContinue Reading

Do Your Family A Favor

The best thing you can ever give someone you love is peace of mind.  Stress and uncertainty can take a toll on all of us, the comfort and reassurance that comes from a well thought out plan can go a long way of relieving the burden. Update Your Will.  Hire an attorney who will reallyContinue Reading

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