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Qdro not filed

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Maybe someone could help?

My ex-wife recently passed away but her attorney never sent the Qdro to my 401k PA. The only thing that was sent was the divorce decree, which has frozen my account until December.

What happens to the money awarded to her?

Thanks, robb

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If nobody sends a QDRO to the plan by the end of the freeze period, the plan should unfreeze your account and you will get everything. If the DRO is sent to the plan and the plan approves it as a QDRO, then the plan will look to the terms of the QDRO to decide what your ex-wife's interest in your 401(k) is and, most importantly, whether that interest survives her death.

The plan should have QDRO procedures that will lay out the above. If there is a conflict between what I've said and what the QDRO procedures say, the QDRO procedures prevail.

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... and the plan Administrator should share those QDRO procedures, if you want to see a copy. It may be reasonable for you/your attorney to inquire whether her death will automatically remove the "freeze".

But of course, I'm not giving legal advice.

I'm a retirement actuary. Nothing about my comments is intended or should be construed as investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. Occasionally, but not all the time, it might be reasonable to interpret my comments as actuarial or consulting advice.

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The divorce decree, if it mentions splitting your 401(k) account and is signed by the judge, is a domestic relations order (DRO), but it is likely not a Qualified DRO.

The 401(k) should have responded to your ex-wife's lawyer, stating that the DRO (the divorce decree) is not a Qualified DRO and sending the 401(k)'s QDRO Procedures. The 401(k) should have notified you that it received a DRO and is supposed to send you a copy of whatever the 401(k) sends her lawyer.

I think you are correct that you simply wait until the 6 months is over. If, in the meantime, the 401(k) receives another DRO, perhaps prepared by lawyers for her beneficiaries or her estate, then the 401(k) will determine if it is qualified or not, and the process will continue from there. If the lawyer does not send an updated DRO, then your account will be unfrozen, at least for a while.

In my experience, QDRO and probate lawyers wait until the very last minute to file their papers, so don't get your hopes up.

And even if nothing happens by December, it is possible for a DRO to show up after December. There's no time limit on filing a DRO, although the status of your account may change (like if you pull all the money out). If the 401(k) no longer has the money to satisfy the DRO, then the lawyers will likely come after your other assets to find a way to satisfy the division of the account assets as required by the divorce decree.

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