Your divorce is final! No doubt you feel like taking a break but there is much more to do to separate your life from your ex’s.
First, you need to update your will. Keep in mind that minor children cannot directly inherit or be named beneficiaries. The result would be indirectly leaving the proceeds to your estranged spouse as their parent.
You also need to change the beneficiary on your life insurance, investment accounts, workplace retirement plans, IRAs and bank accounts, including your TOD or “Transfer on Death” designation on your bank accounts. Be sure the divorce documents don’t require you to keep your spouse as beneficiary before you make a change in beneficiary. It’s very important to know that these beneficiary designations supersede your will so if you change your will only, but not these designations, the beneficiary designations will rule. The beneficiary on your 401(k) account cannot be changed to someone other than your spouse, without your spouse’s consent, before your divorce is final.
You may need to sell your home or refinance your mortgage if your settlement agreement requires you to do so. Check your divorce papers for any deadlines. After you refinance, file a transfer of deed with the county. If your spouse is the one refinancing, ask for evidence that this has been done by the deadline.
Was there a retirement account that was split in the divorce? Make sure any QDRO is prepared, signed by the judge, and sent to the plan administrator. If you are the one to be getting money from your ex-spouses employer plan, don’t rely on him or her to do this for you. You are the one with the incentive and if this is not done, you could lose out if your spouse dies before the QDRO is in place.
Do you want to change your name to your maiden or other prior name? If you elected to do so, then let everyone know. This is no small task!! Notify Social Security and the IRS first and make sure that is done before proceeding to the remainder. You will need to change your name on your passport, credit card accounts and bank accounts (after these accounts are split up), utilities, car insurance, homeowner’s insurance, umbrella insurance policies, your driver’s license, and your mortgage, and any other banks or accounts where you have a loan. Don’t forget to tell your employer. Changing your social media accounts will help friends and work-related contacts know you want to be called by your “new” old name.
Now that your filing status is changing from “married” to “single” or “head of household”, you should review the withholding on your paycheck. You may need a CPA to help on this. This may be a good time to set up new relationships with a CPA and a financial advisor unless you are comfortable keeping the one you had.
Hopefully, you did this during the course of your divorce but if not, you should create new passwords for your accounts. Remember your spouse knows your birthdate, social security number and your mother’s maiden name so you will need to be thorough.
Your Bank Accounts
Close any joint bank or credit card accounts unless you agreed to keep it open. (This may be the case if you have agreed to keep an account for child support purposes, for instance.) Check with the bank to be sure your spouse has taken your name off if he/she has been given this task to be sure you aren’t liable for any future debt.
Was your car in your joint names? If so, you will need to change your car title to your name only.
Your Health Insurance
Health insurance is one of the most difficult aspects budget-wise when it comes to divorce. Ex-spouses are by law entitled to workplace provided health plan insurance for up to 36 months under COBRA, so be sure the employer knows you are divorced and that the proper notification is done. Don’t assume it will be affordable. Divorce opens enrollment for entering a new health plan so shop around even if you are eligible for COBRA. If your health is very good, there are non-Obama care health plans out there that are very affordable with good coverage. Find an independent health insurance agent to help you.
Create a budget! Your financial circumstances may have changed and now more than ever you need to keep on top of spending and saving for retirement.
Finally, seek out therapy if you are struggling emotionally after divorce (and most people do struggle). Better to work on getting emotionally healthier now than entering into a new relationship with all that unresolved baggage. It will help you be a better single parent as well.
Sound like a lot of work? It is!!! But use this as your checklist, don’t feel like you have to get it all done in a month and just keep plugging away. You will get it done!!