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If you have filed for bankruptcy, in most cases your retirement savings are protected by law, and your creditors will be unable to access the accounts. The funds must still be located in the retirement account, since any withdrawals can be used by creditors to pay down your debt. If you have enough money in your retirement savings, you may want to consider withdrawing the funds to payoff your debt. While you will have to pay a penalty if you are not of retirement age, you may be able to avoid filing bankruptcy altogether. Consult a tax attorney for help if you are unsure of whether to withdraw the finds or file for bankruptcy.
If your retirement funds are in an Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, up to one million dollars is protected from use by creditors. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA, exempts qualified employer plans from access by creditors, since the account is not part of the bankruptcy estate. This includes most pensions and 401k programs.
The law was designed to protect qualified retirement assets from creditors, so that a person filing bankruptcy does not have to depend on public programs for income after retirement.
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