Everyone knows how devastating, frustrating and emotionally difficult divorce is. Sometimes though, we overlook the other, more logistical challenges of splitting up. Divorce represents a major change in nearly every aspect of life, including your financial stability and future goals. Taking control of your finances is one of the first steps to a fresh start. Here are five simple things that everyone needs to do post-divorce.
1. Get organized. Creating a master list of everything required by your agreement or judgment is incredibly beneficial. Most of the mandated actions are time sensitive, including transferring titles, deeding property, paying your ex and even exchanging personal belongings. Review your list and make a calendar so you know when to expect or make payments. Some of the required transactions can be made through direct deposit or payroll deduction, which can really lighten the load. Who wants to make multiple trips to the bank that will only remind you of your divorce?
2. Speaking of accounting, it's critical to make sure that joint accounts for banking and credit cards are closed. I stress the latter because I've seen many clients forget about credit cards. Often they weren't using the card during the relationship, didn't think to check on activity and ended up with negatively impacted credit.
Remember to remove your name from any joint credit card accounts if your spouse is going to continue using the account. Run your card through the shredder and write to the company managing the account to tell them you are no longer responsible for any charges (I would recommend using certified mail with a return receipt requested).
Also, be sure to close all joint bank accounts. If a joint account remains open, your ex can deposit and cash any checks made payable to you, or to both of you. I have seen too many IRS refund checks disappear this way.
3. Immediately after a divorce, it's important that you work with your lawyer to draft a new will. You should also change your health care proxy and durable power of attorney. No matter your situation, I'm guessing you don't want to leave your ex in charge of life-altering health decisions. You should also change any asset that contains a beneficiary component -- life insurance is the big one, but homeowners insurance may qualify as well -- to reflect your new status.
4. On the other hand, there are post-divorce benefits that can be easily maintained thanks to COBRA. However, these have time frames that are set firmly in stone. To maximize efficiency, status changes should be done through the human resources department of the employer handling the insurance. Managing this step promptly can ensure that you -- or your ex -- are able to keep receiving benefits.
5. Although not everyone does so, changing your name when you marry means that you may want to take back your prior to marriage name when you divorce. This can create a lot of paperwork. If you decide to change your name post-divorce, your driver's license and Social Security cards will need to be amended, as will any bank, retirement and credit card accounts to represent your return to your prior name.
Divorce is an ending, but it is also a new beginning. As with any journey, make sure you enter with a good roadmap.
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