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. Here is a checklist to get started:
- 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.
- Change the beneficiary on your life insurance, investment accounts, workplace retirement plans, IRAs and bank accounts, including your TOD or “Transfer on Death” designation. Other things to be aware of:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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-spouse’s 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.
- 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.
- Review the withholding on your paycheck. You may need a CPA to help on this.
- Create new passwords for your accounts if you haven’t done this already. Remember your spouse knows your birthdate, social security number and your mother’s maiden name so you will need to be thorough.
- Close any joint bank or credit card accounts unless you agreed to keep an account 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.
- Change your car title to your name only.
- 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.
- Set up new relationships with a CPA and a financial advisor unless you are comfortable keeping the one you had.
- Create a budget. Your financial circumstances may have changed and you need to keep on top of spending and saving for retirement.
- 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!!