A question I often get asked by clients is “do we really need an actuary?” There are circumstances where the answer is most definitely YES. There are also circumstances where the answer is no. However, even if you don’t need an actuary, you are likely to need a financial planner if you or your spouse have pensions.
When do you not need an actuary?
The answer to this is not because you have decided to each keep your own pensions, without taking advice. Doing this is likely to result in one of you giving up benefits that you are not aware you are sacrificing. If either of you have pensions, you should both be taking advice on them.
If you and your ex only have defined contribution pensions, for example, personal pension, SIPP, stakeholder pension, with no guarantees, then you can probably receive advice from a financial planner rather than also needing to involve an actuary. I would strongly recommend that you choose someone who has experience of working with clients who are divorcing, for example, someone who is Resolution Accredited (yes, we are!). Defined contribution pensions with no guarantees are generally valued at the transfer value that is given to you by the pension provider.
When do you need an actuary?
If between you and your spouse, you have a combination of defined contribution and defined benefit pensions (eg. Final salary schemes, career average schemes), solely defined benefit pensions, or defined contribution pensions with guarantees, you ought to be requesting an actuarial report. They will help you to understand the true value of the pensions and help you to understand how you might look at dividing them.
Many clients are discouraged because of the additional cost. An actuarial report generally costs in the region of £1,500 to £2,000. If you and your ex are looking to agree your financial settlement between you, either directly or through mediation, the report will provide you with valuable information to help you to work out how to divide your pensions. If you need to engage in the court process, you will need to request a report from an actuary in this process. It can therefore save time later, as actuarial reports can often take 5 or 6 months to complete, in part due to delays in information being provided by pension administrators.
Who instructs the actuary?
Generally, actuaries are instructed by both lawyers on a Single Joint Expert basis, which means that they are working for both you and your ex.
You need to ensure that the lawyers are the actuary to provide the information that you both need to guide you. However, asking for all possible calculations can make the information provided even more complicated, as there will be many options. It is advisable to discuss the basis on which the report is to be written before instructing the actuary. More detailed information about this can be found in the Advice Now Survival Guide to pensions on divorce.
A PODE is a Pensions On Divorce Expert. I have recently been advised by a client that her ex’s solicitor has informed him that actuaries are not used any longer and PODEs are being used instead of actuaries. PODE is a term that covers a range of experts, including actuaries and financial planners. They were introduced in the “PAG report”, which was produced by a wide range of divorce professionals, including judges, barristers, lawyers, mediators, financial planners, actuaries, etc, and is aimed as a guide to pensions for divorce professionals. PODE is a title that describes experts who are experienced in working with pensions on divorce. They self-certify as having the right qualifications and experience to provide the advice required.
There will be occasions on which an actuary is the right PODE and occasions on which a financial planner is a more appropriate PODE. The best way to find out which is more appropriate to instruct, when you have pensions that form part of the marital assets, is to check with a financial planner or an actuary.
If you, or your lawyer, need any help with knowing whether you need an actuary or a financial planner, or with instructing an actuary, please drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or book a 15 minute chat using the link https://calendly.com/tamsin-caine/15min.
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