Going through a divorce is exhausting. So when it is final, it may be tempting to retreat and perhaps even shut down. Still, there are many tasks yet to be done to secure your future. And taking control can be therapeutic and help you move forward.
Here are some of the most important:
✓ Get certified copies of your divorce order from your attorney and:
▪ Change the deed if you’re keeping the house and transfer the title to your car if it is in both your names.
▪ Update your will and review any trust documents you may have. Change your beneficiary on any life insurance policy, pension plan, retirement account, securities account with a transfer-on-death beneficiary and payable-on-death bank account.
✓ Make sure your vehicle is properly insured and that you’re the only owner listed on the policy.
✓ If you were still married by the last day of the year, you may want to talk to a tax professional to determine whether it is more advantageous to file “married filing separately” or “married filing jointly” – provided it wouldn’t be difficult to work with your ex.
✓ If you claimed a withholding exemption for your spouse, update your W-4 within ten days of your divorce becoming final.
✓ Verify all credit cards, bank accounts and loans are separated. Change passwords.
✓ To avoid taxes or penalties if you are receiving funds from your spouse’s 401(k) or IRA, make sure the transfer is completed in a timely manner.
✓ If you were on your spouse’s health insurance policy, make sure you find individual coverage immediately. A divorce is considered a life event that qualifies you to sign up for insurance on the government health exchange or your employer’s insurance outside their open enrollment period. You can also extend your coverage on your ex-spouse’s policy through COBRA for up to 36 months, but it may be rather expensive.
✓ If you have children and don’t have a life insurance policy, get one.
✓ If your ex-spouse is providing alimony or child support, you may want to consider taking out a life insurance policy on your ex to protect that income.
✓ Because you no longer have a spouse to rely on if misfortune hits, start setting aside funds for an emergency fund if you don’t have one. Similarly, consider disability and long-term care insurance if you don’t have them.
You may also want to set up a health care proxy and a power of attorney in the event you can’t make your own decisions.
✓ Get a corrected Social Security card, new driver’s license, vehicle title and registration if you changed your name. You’ll also need to update your state tax records, voter record, passport, retirement accounts, insurance policies, mail and utilities.
✓ Work with a fee-only Financial Planner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst to determine how much you need for a comfortable retirement and what you need to do to get there. They can help create a budget, set up an automated program that directs funds from your bank into investment accounts and create strategies designed to balance growth potential with the need for secure, liquid investments during retirement years.