No matter what stage of life you’re in, divorce is never easy. But when you’re past a certain age, divorce can be especially complicated and problematic. Older couples who have been together for a long while typically have deeper social, family, and financial ties to one another, and a lifetime of earnings can mean that there are significant assets at stake in the divorce. How those assets are divided can be a major challenge during the divorce and raise questions about what you may be owed and what financial issues should be considered.
Here are some financial concerns that you should be aware of regarding asset division in a late-life divorce and how to get legal help.
Asset Division in a Washington Divorce
A primary concern in a late-life divorce is financial stability. Since the state of Washington is a community property state, most assets that you or your partner have acquired since marriage belong to both of you in equal share. This can seriously affect your finances, as well as your retirement plans. Some issues you’ll need to consider can include:
- Retirement plans. Retirement plans are usually considered community property and will typically be divided equally by the court, unless you and your spouse can negotiate a mutually agreeable way to split the accounts. Note that withdrawing money from certain kinds of retirement plans can incur a substantial tax penalty, even if it’s due to a divorce situation, so be sure to account for that penalty at the bargaining table.
- Social security benefits. You may be entitled to a portion of your ex-spouse’s social security benefits, under certain conditions. He must be eligible to receive benefits and you must be 62 or over, unmarried, and your benefits must be less than what you would receive by claiming his.
- Real estate. Dividing up real estate can be a difficult process, especially if you own multiple properties such as summer homes, rentals, or other investment properties. Think carefully about what you’re really willing to give up and what you’re willing to exchange for other assets or benefits.
- Alimony. Alimony may be granted if your spouse is still employed, but it may not last as long as you think if retirement is just around the corner. You may choose to negotiate for something else, such as a larger portion of a joint retirement plan.
One of the toughest challenges can be simply disentangling your finances from those of your spouse after so long. The more assets you have and the more deeply they are intertwined, the longer your divorce can take to sort out. You may choose to be flexible with asset division, as it could help speed up the divorce process. On the other hand, you have a right to a certain portion of the marital assets and property, so you shouldn’t make quick decisions. The best thing you may be able to do is talk with your attorney about how to proceed.
Legal Help for Your Divorce
If you’re facing the prospect of a later-life divorce in your 50s, 60s, or even in your 70s and beyond, it’s crucial to have an experienced divorce attorney on your side. Your attorney should be familiar with the complexities of high-asset divorces like yours. He can help protect your legal right to a fair share of the property you and your partner acquired throughout your marriage and guide you through the divorce process from start to finish. He can ensure that you get on with the most important part of the divorce—enjoying a new beginning to the rest of your life.
When you’re ready to talk to an attorney that understands your issues and can answer all your questions about late-life and high-asset divorces, the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny is here for you. Call us, or use our contact form to send an email, and arrange a private consultation in our Bellevue office to see how we can be of service.