The divorce agreement is signed and the final legal bills have been paid. After the long period of uncertainty and stress, this should be the time to breathe a sigh of relief and be done. Right?
Well, almost. Even though you don’t have to go to any more attorney meetings, there are still steps to take towards untangling a married family life into two single lives. Getting these done as soon as possible after the divorce will go a long way towards minimizing surprises and creating a solid home base for you to recover.
Check your wallet (again!)
As I have mentioned in the Pre-Divorce Checklist, you must always have at least 2 general-use credit cards in your name. If one of those cards is compromised because of identity theft or suspicious card activity, you still have a backup in case you need to pay for an emergency car tow or plumber visit.
Change your last name
If you are going back to using your maiden name after the divorce, complete the paperwork with the Social Security Administration. You will need to complete the application for a new card and include the divorce documents. Typical processing time is 10 days since application receipt, so I recommend you get the clock ticking in your favor. Once you have the new Social Security card, you will need to change the last name on your driver’s license. If you are moving as a result of the divorce, the address on your license will need to be updated as well.
Revise all personal and financial planning documents
This one sounds like a chore, so I have broken it out into a mini-checklist. Not all points will apply to every situation, but it helps to consider them all. Check all beneficiary designations – if you discover that your ex-spouse is still listed as a beneficiary, making the change is a matter of filling out a simple form. It is also a good idea to review the financial responsibility sections: who will the insurer contact in the event of non-payment? Remember, if this review is done right you only have to do it once.
- Will, trust and estate documents (check the executor name, too!)
- Power of Attorney
- Life insurance policy
- Annuity contracts
- Pension plan with your employer
- Long Term Care insurance policy
Don’t forget insurance
After the divorce is done, you must make sure you have health insurance coverage. Just kidding! This step must be done well before the divorce paperwork is signed. Your goal is seamless transition – not a single day without coverage. But since we are on the subject of health insurance, double-check who you have listed as an emergency contact in your file.
Review all property-related contracts
Utility bills are an obvious first step – make sure the right name is on those. If any of the home bills are scheduled on autopay, double-check the funding bank accounts to make sure they are titled in your name and active. If you have an alarm system, call the company and make sure you are the contact person on the contract.
Property and casualty insurance policies may need to be revisited as well. If you have a homeowner’s policy, carefully review the list of assets associated with it. You may discover that some of those assets (jewelry, artwork etc.) went to your spouse per the terms of the divorce agreement and no longer need to be insured under your policy.
Review and change titles on car ownership documents, and make sure all car insurance paperwork reflects the correct owner and driver.
What about the kids?
Work with the children’s school to update the parents’ contact information. If there are any bank accounts in children’s names, check the adult names that are associated with them.
Check your credit score (again)
It is a good idea to request credit reports both before and after the divorce. My favorite credit reports come from Experian via www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Review the report carefully. If you see any error or issues, contact the credit bureau immediately to get them corrected.
I advise my clients to take care of these administrative tasks sooner rather than later. While it is natural to want to take a break from paperwork and financial questions, your long-term peace of mind is dependent upon getting these small details right. Tackle the items one at a time, and you will set yourself up to take control and make the most of your post-divorce finances.
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