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Asset division and divorce among older adults

Divorce is on the rise for older couples, but in some cases, these divorces may be relatively amiable. Often, they occur because once the children are grown, couples realize they have grown apart and go their separate ways. Couples in this age group may have acquired a number of assets to split fairly, but there are several pitfalls they should be aware of.

For example, 401(k)s and pension plans need a document known as a qualified domestic relations order before they can be split. This document allows these types of accounts to be divided without incurring taxes and penalties. IRAs do not need a QDRO, but the amount a person receives does need to be rolled into another IRA to avoid penalties and taxes. There are other complications with different investments. Annuities all have different sets of rules for division. In some cases, because dividing assets is so complicated, couples instead opt for one person to take some assets and the other to take different assets of equal value.

Older couples may want to pursue a collaborative divorce. With this type of divorce, couples have their own attorneys but share a financial advisor. This helps them further the goal of working together to a financial solution that benefits both of them.

One thing couples should keep in mind during asset division is that both parties need to make sure they accurately assess the value of those assets. For example, an investment account and a retirement account may have the same value, but if the retirement account will be taxed on withdrawal, its worth is actually less. If there is a home and one person will keep it, that person should consider the cost of upkeep, insurance, property taxes and utilities as well as whether the home is likely to appreciate in value like other assets.

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