Svennungsen Law Office, PLLC Svennungsen Law Office, PLLC

Assisting clients and attorneys in the areas of tax, employee benefits (ERISA), executive compensation, preparation of retirement division orders (QDROs) and more.

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Peter D. Svennungsen


LL.M., Taxation, University of Washington School of Law
J.D., Gonzaga University School of Law
B.A., International Business, Whitworth University


State of Washington


Spokane County Bar Association
Washington State Bar Association, Tax Section
Spokane Club Focus Group

Speaking Engagements

Family Law – Preventing Mistakes/Oversights in QDROs and Prevent Errors Dividing Military Benefits in Divorce, NBI Continuing Legal Education (December 7, 2016) Beyond the Decree: Retirement Plans, QDROs and Financial Planning – Idaho State Bar Association (Boisie, ID; Idaho Falls, ID; Coeur d’Alene, ID—October 7, 14, 21 2016) Division of Retirement Benefits: Qualified Domestic Relations Orders; Present Value Calculations; Taxation and More. – Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section Midyear, Spokane, WA (June, 2015) Employee Benefit Issues under the Affordable Care Act/Tax Traps related to Employment Agreements for Executives – Spokane County Bar Association Employment Law CLE (December, 2014) Changes to Employee Benefits Plans Under the Affordable Care Act, Oregon/Washington Medical Group Management Association Annual Meeting – Spokane, WA (May, 2014) ERISA and the Qualified Domestic Relations Order as a Child Support Enforcement Remedy: If You Think It’s Easy, Think Again – Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys Annual Meeting, Spokane, WA (May, 2014) Division of Retirement Benefits: Qualified Domestic Relations Orders; Present Value Calculations; Taxation and More. – Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section Midyear, Spokane, WA (2011) Other Retirement Plans – 403(b), 457, Governmental & Church Plans, etc. – National Institute of Pension Administrators, Spokane, WA (2011)

Practice Areas

Employee Benefits/ERISA

Peter is one of the few area attorneys with a practice emphasis in the employee benefits/ERISA area of law. Peter has extensive experience in the implementation and maintenance of qualified and non-qualified retirement plans and health and welfare plans for both small and large employers. This includes helping employers comply with new requirements under the Affordable Care Act. Peter also regularly assists employers when their plans have fallen out of compliance with ERISA or the Internal Revenue Code through the Department of Labor's Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program ("VFCP") and the IRS's Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System ("EPCRS"). He also assists employers under audit with the Department of Labor. Having worked both as in-house counsel for a large Third Party Administrator for retirement plans and in private practice for the largest law firm in Spokane, Peter has a unique perspective in determining how to best handle a client's needs in the area of employee benefits/ERISA.

Executive Compensation

Many executives find themselves in a position where their compensation exceeds their immediate financial needs. In these situations, a non-qualified retirement plan, or Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan ("SERP") can be structured to defer excess compensation into future years. Often times these types of plans/arrangements call for payment of the deferred compensation in either lump sum or installment payments after the executive has severed from employment. Peter has extensive experience in both reviewing and implementing these types of arrangements so that they are not subject to immediate taxation (and penalties) under either Internal Revenue Code sections 409A and 457, or other common law doctrines such as constructive receipt.

Equity/Incentive Compensation

Whether it is a start-up company that is low on capital and forced to offer its employees equity instead of higher wages, or else a well-established company with a need to retain its key employees, equity/incentive compensation is a valuable benefit that an employer can offer to its compensation and benefits package. Common equity compensation arrangements include both qualified and non-qualified stock options, restricted stock and restricted stock units, phantom stock, and stock appreciation rights ("SARS"). Peter can assist the employer in both choosing the appropriate equity compensation structure, plan implementation and ongoing compliance, and the tax consequences for both the employer and employees.

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders

Qualified Domestic Relations Orders ("QDROs") and other orders that divide retirement benefits incident to divorce are often required to transfer retirement benefits from one spouse to another in a manner that is consistent with the parties' divorce decree or property settlement agreement. Peter is very experienced in drafting retirement orders incident to divorce, including orders dividing retirement plans subject to ERISA, Military Retired Pay, Railroad Retirement, Civil Service Retirement System ("CSRS") and Federal Employee Retirement System ("FERS"), Thrift Savings Plan ("TSP"), all orders administered by Washington state's Department of Retirement Systems (e.g., PERS, TRS, LEOFF, JRF), Public Employee Retirement Systems of Idaho (PERSI), and any other order that divides retirement plans incident to divorce. Peter drafts and reviews hundreds of these orders on an annual basis, and he regularly presents to the family law bar and other professionals regarding QDROs and other retirement benefit orders incident to divorce.

Expert Witness Testimony

Peter is regularly retained to provide either written or oral (deposition or trial) testimony relating to retirement benefits, whether it is an unresolved issue in divorce, a dispute regarding the proper retirement plan beneficiary in a probate, or other matters relating to tax, employee benefits, or executive compensation.

Trial Testimony

  • Kay E. Stephens v. Gregory D. Harris, Spokane County, Washington, Superior Court Case No. 13-3-01520-8 (2018)
  • Donna Gilmore v. Jaymes Hughes, Spokane County, Washington, Superior Court Case No. 16-3-00984-9 (2018)
  • Michael Riach v. Suzanne Riach, Bonner County, Idaho, District Court Case No. CV-2016-0001447 (2017)
  • Kathleen L. Millick v. Paul E. Millick, Spokane County, Washington, Superior Court Case No. 14-3-00529-4 (2016)
  • Joyce M. Ford v. George T. Ford, Kootenai County, Idaho, District Court Case No. CV-2013-0006305 (2016)
  • Carolyn Willingham v. Benjamin Lingard, Kootenai County, Idaho, District Court Case No. CV-2012-0000319 (2014)
  • Bonnie S. Cowin v. James P. Cowin, Benton County, Washington, Superior Court Case No. 08-3-000687-6 (2013)

Present Value Calculations

In some situations, parties would rather not divide retirement assets in divorce and instead the retirement plan participant will agree to give up another community asset in exchange for keeping their retirement plan in tact. A present value calculation is often utilized to determine the present (lump sum) value of a party's future monthly benefit payable to them upon retirement. Drawing on his background working for a Third Party retirement plan Administrator ("TPA"), Peter regularly calculates present value calculations to assist clients and their attorney in determining whether the parties can equitably divide their marital estate without a QDRO.

For Lawyers

Peter Svennungsen's practice has always been dedicated exclusively to the areas of tax and employee benefits matters. If he has a client with legal needs outside of his practice area, he refers this work out to legal professionals who are better-equipped to assist the client. Whether you are a solo practitioner or a "full-service" law firm without an employee benefits professional, rest assured that Peter's assistance will stay within the scope of the referral and that your client's remaining legal needs will be sent back to you.


Get in touch today.

Phone: (509) 822-2265 Address: 905 W Riverside Ave Ste 504; Spokane, WA 99201 Office hours: Monday — Friday 8:30AM — 5PM OR Use the form below to send a message. Please include complete and accurate information to ensure a quick, informed response.



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Phone: (509) 822-2265 Address: 905 W Riverside Ave Ste 504; Spokane, WA 99201 Office hours: Monday — Friday 8:30AM — 5PM

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. © 2016 Svennungsen Law Office, PLLC. All rights reserved.