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Question for the Money Doctors

Question submitted on Jul 12, 2011.

Question

I work for a small company that does not offer a 401(k). My husband works for a larger company that has a very nice 401(k) with match. We have used this to our advantage and almost all of our retirement savings are in his 401(k). This is not a problem except that we recently went through a very rough patch in our marriage and although we are doing much better now, I am worried that all my retirement savings are in my husband''s name. Is there a way to have both our names on his 401(k)? Could he cash out the account without my permission? Thank you.

Answer

Unfortunatley there is NO way to have more than one name on a 401K. The good news is that despite the rough patch you are experiencing he can't really do anything without your knowledge regarding what is in the 401K (in terms of moving or spending it -your signature would be required). He could however take out a loan without you knowing it..but he'd have to pay it back or face tax consequenses that could be stiff.

At worst, if divorce comes into play, depending on the settlement and based on what you said above you should be entitled to a portion of this 401K (even though it is just in his name now). The rationale is that is has been accumulated while you were married (as opposed to marrying him when he already had it). Even if he takes a loan without your knowledge your share should be protected.

Should he pass unexpectedly all the 401K will change to your name without tax consequenses at the time of change. You may still have to pay taxes on withdrawals.

As to the issues of what would happen during a divorce consult a local divorce attorney (normally no fee). a LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS a great THING!!!


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