How To Find Hidden Retirement Accounts


How To Find Hidden Assets In A Divorce

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by Bruce Robertson | Nov 19, 2014 | Blog

If you find yourself going through a divorce or are contemplating a divorce, you are likely aware that in a community property state you are entitled to half of the wealth that has accumulated during your marriage. Of course, your spouse is also aware of this, and this is why it is common for assets to be hidden prior to a divorce. Finding these assets can be difficult. You need to know where to look, and how to detect these assets. The following are a few examples of hidden assets and how we can help to locate them.

Offshore Accounts And The Corporate Veil

Many falsely believe that if they can get their money out of the country, it will be safe from a divorce attorney. The chances of the accounts being found are slim. Once again, this is simply not true. Accounts can be identified as belonging to your spouse, and this information can be given to your attorney. The same is true with any money or assets that are being funneled through a corporation. Often real estate holdings or expensive vehicles are transferred into a companys name. Once this transfer can be documented, it often becomes apparent that it was only done to hide the asset from a spouse prior to a divorce.

Most of the situations above involving hidden assets are usually initiated by the spouse that has a business or is in charge of the finances. If you are the spouse that is not as involved in the finances, then you need to contact us for a consultation. We can discuss your particular situation, including the possibility of performing a divorce investigation, and explain how information you provide us can help us to find various types of hidden assets.

Registered Retirement Savings Plan

A Registered Retirement Savings Plan is a government-sponsored savings account that helps you not only save for retirement, but also cut your tax bill. Every contribution you make to your RRSP is tax deductible. When it comes time to file your taxes, youll claim your RRSP contributions as a deduction and watch your tax bill go down.

In addition, whatever you earn inside your RRSP, whether its interest off a GIC or dividends off your stocks, wont be taxable. The only time you pay taxes on an RRSP is when you withdraw money in retirement. At that time, your withdrawals will be taxed at your marginal tax rate. The idea is that by the time you retire your marginal tax rate will be lower than it is now, helping you save even more on taxes owed.

To open an RRSP, you must have filed a tax return and be between the ages of 18 and 71. Every year, you can contribute up to 18% of your earned income from the previous year, or an amount specified by the CRA, whichever is less . You can use your RRSP contributions to invest in stocks, mutual funds, index funds, bonds, GICs, or you can put it aside in a savings account.

If you over-contribute, youll be penalized. But if you under-contribute, meaning you dont contribute to your maximum, the unused space will rollover into the next year. Finally, when you turn 71, you have to convert your RRSP into an income-paying account, such as a Registered Retirement Income Fund or an annuity.

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Follow Your Annuity Guidelines To Avoid Fees

If youve decided that its time to jump ship from your current provider, be sure youre following the guidelines so you dont get slammed with hidden annuity rollover fees, as well as other costs like higher expense ratios or administrative fees that you didnt have before.

The IRS allows for tax-free exchanges of annuity contracts as long as they fall under the same tax status. For example, a simplified employee pension or a savings incentive match plan for employees can be rolled over into a traditional IRA because theyre both tax-deferred.

Find Out If You Have Lost Or Forgotten Retirement Accounts

The Tricky Business Of Retirement: Hidden 401(K) Fees : NPR

If you think you might have an unclaimed 401 or pension plan, its important to take a little time to search for it.

Stephanie Faris

Key Takeaways

  • If youve switched jobs at least once, you may have retirement savings youve forgotten in the form of 401 accounts and pensions.
  • There are tools you can use to perform a quick 401 search. You can also look for pensions using the Department of Labors online tool.
  • These tools will only help you find the funds. Youll have to use the information to claim them.

After decades of hard work, youre finally ready to retire. But there have also been decades of managing your money, which may involve funding various retirement accounts. If, like most people, you had multiple employers during your career, it can be even tougher to keep track of every retirement account you have.

If you think you might have an unclaimed 401 or pension plan, its important to take a little time to search for it. Even if its only a few hundred dollars, that money will come in handy after you retire. Here are some tips on tracking down all your retirement accounts and claiming any funds you find.

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Not Thinking Long Term About Child Support

When a divorcing couple has children, an important part of the divorce settlement is ensuring that the children will have the financial support that they need at least until adulthood. Numerous factors go into child support calculations, including each parents income, how much time the child will spend with each parent, and the childs age.

Its a mistake to only consider regular, daily expenses in determining how much child support to seek. Make sure to factor in future educational expenses, medical expenses , and extracurricular expenses. A life insurance policy that will provide for alimony and child support in the event of the supporting ex-spouses untimely death can be a smart purchase.

The divorce can also affect the childs financial aid award for college because some schools assume a certain contribution from each parent even if one parent has left the picture. And parents will need to decide who will claim the child tax credit each year, because only one parent can claim it. They also will need to address possible issues created by advance child tax credit payments and shared custody.

How To Find Hidden Bank Accounts In Divorce

1 year ago by Sonja Davig, Family Law Attorney

Anyone who thinks all is fair in love and war never had a spouse who hid bank accounts on them. It happens, unfortunately, and when its time to call it quits on a marriage, you deserve a fair split of assets. But thats tough to negotiate when some assets are hidden. And according to the National Endowment for Financial Education, the problem is widespread. Hidden assets exist in two-thirds of marriages, according to, “Uncovering Hidden Assets in Divorce Litigation” on

So, what if you suspect your spouse is among those hiding assets? And how can you find hidden bank accounts when youre getting a divorce? First, here are some things to keep in mind.

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How To Find A Lost 401 Account

Think you may be one of the millions with forgotten 401 money floating around somewhere? Start by scouring your personal email or laptop for any old 401 plan statements that you may have saved in the past.

“Your statement will provide your account number and plan administrator’s contact information,” Corina Cavazos, managing director, advice and planning at Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management, tells Select. Your former coworkers may have old statements that you can reference, too.

If you don’t have any luck, Cavazos says that your best bet is to contact your former employer’s HR or accounting department. By providing your full name, Social Security number and dates of employment with that company, you can have them check their 401 plan records to see if you were once a participant.

If you’ve tried contacting your 401 plan administrator or former employer to no success, you may be able to find old retirement account funds on the National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. Upon entering your Social Security number, the secure website allows you to conduct a free database search to see if there’s any unpaid retirement money in your name.

Another search database is the FreeERISA website, which indicates if your former employer rolled your 401 funds into a default participant IRA account on your behalf. FreeERISA requires you to register before performing a search, but it is free to do so.

What To Do If You Suspect Your Spouse Is Hiding Assets

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It would be nice to be able to trust the other party in a divorce, but hiding assets is all too common. The National Endowment for Financial Education reported in 2018 that of the US adults who have combined assets, two in five admitted to hiding money from that spouse. There are certain situations where a spouse is more likely to hide assets:

  • When one spouse was in charge of the finances.
  • When the divorce has been coming for a while.
  • When the divorce is a high asset case.

In the beginning of the divorce, spouses provide financial information regarding any assets, income, and expenses, so an equitable property division can occur.

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What Are The Tax Consequences Of Selling Or Transferring Marital Assets

When selling or transferring assets in the process of dividing them during a divorce, spouses need to be careful to avoid unnecessary capital gains taxes and gift taxes. An accountant can help you follow Internal Revenue Service rules about timing and documentation to do a transfer incident to divorce and steer clear of or minimize these taxes.

Another thing to keep in mind is the potential future tax liability of any assets that you receive. Lets say you get the taxable brokerage account and your spouse gets the retirement account, each of which is worth $100,000 today. Without considering the future taxes that will be due when selling and withdrawing assets from those accounts, this division is likely to be unfair.

What Can I Do To Prevent My Spouse From Hiding Assets

One of the best things you can do is to be actively involved in your familys finances. Its much harder for a spouse to take and hide money or assets when the other knows how the family finances work.

This means that you should know:

  • What your bills are
  • What the monthly income is from all areas
  • How much you spend on a regular basis

If applicable, familiarize yourself with any business income that your spouse may have.

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What Types Of Property & Assets Should I Look

If you think your spouse is hiding assets or finances from you, you should be looking for any assets and property that would be considered marital property, this means pretty much anything acquired during a marriage that has not already been classified as separate property. You should pay special attention to any purchases made with marital funds, which may mean doing some extra research on where your money was spent. Additionally, you should be aware that any propertyexcept separate propertyacquired during the marriage is still considered community property even when one spouse is unaware the property exists or when one spouse purchased or held the property in their name alone.

The Key To Finding A Loved Ones Assets Is Utilizing Available Resources

7 Secret Perks of Individual Retirement Accounts

Sometimes it is difficult enough just keeping track of your own property. It is rarely the case that someone knows all of the property that their loved ones own. Finding all the assets of a loved one is a difficult task. This is why the court appoints an executor or personal representative to handle this responsibility.

If you are named as an executor of your loved ones estate and are not aware of all the property held in their estate, follow the steps included here and use the resources available to you for locating property.


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What To Do With A Lost Retirement Account When You Find It

Once youve found a lost retirement account, what you do with it depends on what type of plan it is and where its located.

Old 401k balances can be rolled into your current employers plan or rolled into an IRA in a trustee-to-trustee transfer. You can also request a payout of the plan balance, but if you are under the age of 59.5, the payout will be subject to income taxes and a 10% penalty for early withdrawal.

If you find an old pension through the PBGC, youll have to go through a process to verify your identity. Once the PBGC has established that you are owed the benefits, you can apply for them at any time once youve reached retirement age.

Its not uncommon for former employees to leave funds in a former employers retirement plan, believing theyll get around to dealing with it later. Years pass by, and maybe youve forgotten about a few old accounts. Even if they didnt amount to much at the time, a few hundred dollars here and there combined with some market growth over the years just might add up to a nice addition to your retirement savings. Its worth a look!

Cash Flow In A Business

Analyzing how money flows through a business indicates whether there are good or bad internal controls. These controls detail whether the person receiving and recording deposits are the same person. Poor internal cash flow controls could mean one spouse is hiding assets or conducting business for future favors or payment.

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How Do You Protect Yourself Financially In A Divorce

In general, its a good idea to close joint credit card accounts so that one spouse cant run up debt for which the other one will be held responsible. Reviewing your credit reports and monitoring your credit can help you make sure that your spouse hasnt done anything to damage your credit. Do not take assets that are not yours, because a judge may sanction you heavily for doing so. A family law attorney and an accountant can help you take the specific steps that your situation warrants.

What Kind Of Retirement Account Is She Talking About

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Sandra worked for an employer that provided a defined benefit pension plan. This is the type of pension where usually both the employee and employer make regular contributions to the pension plan on behalf of the worker. Once the employee reaches retirement age, the pension plan will start making regular pension payments to the retired worker until they die.

If an employee contributes to a defined benefit pension plan for a short time and then leaves the company, at a minimum they will have their pension credits or the value of the contributions transferred to a locked-in retirement account, otherwise known as a LIRA.

Its also possible that they could leave the money in the pension plan and then collect a reduced pension once they reach retirement age.

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How Does A Spouse Hide Assets

It can be quite easy for someone to hide assets, or simply misrepresent how many assets they have. Often, the person will enlist the help of someone close to them, or will simply open a bank account in secret.

Other ways for a spouse to reduce or hide assets include:

  • lending money to family or friends
  • generating fake expenses
  • transferring finances to a separate account
  • not disclosing income
  • not disclosing all business assets
  • making large purchases
  • secretly withdrawing money from accounts such as RRSPs
  • transferring ownership of half of a home to a new partner
  • transferring interest in a company to other corporate partners

What Are Some Of The Information That People Should Be Gathering

Heres a short list of the information to pull together:

  • titles to cars
  • keys to any safe deposit boxes
  • safe information
  • medical records
  • account statements

Youve got to have copies of these things, because when it comes to a divorce, we all want to think that when two people decide to get married and then they end up getting divorced that theyre going to act cordial to each other and act like adults with each other.

Unfortunately, about 95 percent of the time it never works like that. It becomes a very stressful situation, and at times can become a dangerous situation. Thats why being prepared ahead of time is what will make this successful and safer for everyone.

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Contribute To Other Retirement Savings Plans

Individual Retirement Account are retirement accounts owned and funded by you, the individual, not your employer.

Two common types of IRAs are traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. You may qualify for one or both types, but it’s important to speak with a financial advisor or your bank to see which one is the best option for you.

Learn More about IRAs

What Are Some Red Flags That Indicate That Your Spouse Might Be Hiding Assets

The Secret to Building a Huge Retirement Account

One of the biggest things that a spouse needs to look at is the fact that if their other spouse is becoming more and more cryptic about the finances. By that I mean theyre saying to them, No, no, no. You dont need to worry about that. I got it covered. It is where theyre now taking all the money thats coming into the family and the spouse is the only one that is now controlling the money, the only one that has the bank account, the only one thats dealing with the taxes.

And they dont let the other spouse have any activities with it or any sort of input. When the spouse says, Well, whats going on with our money? How much do we have? Do we have retirement? The spouse will say something like, Ive got it covered. We have a really great retirement. Ive got a 401K. All of our moneys being handled by our money manager. Weve got it all covered. Thats where it first starts out.

When it starts to get more and more controlling, thats absolutely where red flags should be waving back and forth. Where the spouse says, Here is your credit card to use. This is how much money you can spend on it, and when they start taking more and more control over the day-to-day finances, that is a big problem.

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