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TX high asset divorceIn a high asset divorce, one of the most critical issues is the division of retirement accounts. When one spouse earns a pension during the course of a marriage, it is considered community property. This means any such pension is subject to division as part of the overall divorce proceedings.

Austin Court: Divorce Invalidated Previous Designation of Ex-Spouse as TRS Pension Beneficiary

Pension plans require a covered employee to designate a “beneficiary,” who will receive any remaining pension benefits upon the employee's death. Typically when an employee gets divorced, the court will issue Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs), which instructs the pension plan administrator on how to divide any accounts or benefits. A QDRO also serves to override any prior beneficiary designation that conflicts with its terms.

Even without a QDRO, however, the divorce itself may automatically revoke a prior designation of a now-former spouse as beneficiary. A recent decision from a state appeals court in Austin, Jones v. Teacher Retirement System, provides a helpful illustration of this rule. In this case, a former employee of Texas Tech passed away in 2015. He had a pension with the Texas Retirement System (TRS).

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Texas high asset divorce, Texas complex litigation attorney, Williamson County high asset divorce lawyer, A prominent financial advisor suggests that spouses who receive the marital residence following a high-asset divorce sell it, downsize, and use the extra cash to make catch-up contributions to their retirement accounts.

Such action is particularly appropriate if the divorcee is over 50, because persons of this age have less time to make up lost wealth. If a person saves $500 per month in housing costs, invests it, and realizes a 5 percent return, that extra cash will be $77,000 in ten years. Professionals suggest that the funds go into a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement account; in most cases, account holders can put up to $24,000 a year into their 401(k)s.

After divorce, household income drops by an average of 23 percent for men and over 40 percent for women.

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Texas complex litigation lawyer, Texas high asset attorney, Texas complex divorce attorney, In many high net worth divorces, assets have an emotional value that is equal to, or even greater than, the monetary value. For example, a house is not just a residence; it is the place where the children grew up. The same principle applies to many personal property items, like grandfather clocks and sets of dishes.

Retirement accounts often fall into this category as well. In addition to their significant dollar value (a 410k, IRA, or other long-term savings account is often the largest asset in a divorce), the account represents years or even decades of financial sacrifice and the promise of long-term security. So, it is little wonder that there are many issues stemming from retirement accounts in a high-asset divorce.

Pre-Division

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