What to do After Your Divorce is Finalized

Your divorce decree (“Judgment”) was finally signed by a judge.  Now what?  There are several steps you should take:

  1. Estate Plans and Health Care Decisions. The Judgment and the end of your marriage will not automatically revoke a trust, omit your former spouse as a beneficiary of your estate, or prevent him from being your designated representative for medical decisions.  You should re-execute any existing Living Will/Health Care Directive, or execute a new one now that you do not have a spouse to communicate your wishes.
  2. Insurance beneficiary designations. Here again, the dissolution of your relationship will not automatically revoke prior designation, even if your Judgment contains specific words about insurance beneficiaries.  Check small term life insurance plans through your bank, credit union and employers to execute new beneficiary designations.
  3. Credit cards, department, and big box store credit accounts. Obtain a free copy of your credit report.  Contact all open charge accounts to be sure that you alone have charge privileges.
  4. Your last name. Through your divorce, you may have changed your last name.  If so, be sure to contact your employer, the Social Security Administration, the US Dept. of State (passports), and the DMV so that all records have your correct name.
  5. Change titles. Review all of your accounts and vehicle registrations (including boats, ATVs, RVs, etc.) to ensure that all of your vehicles are registered in your name alone; and, that you are not on registrations for vehicles assigned to your spouse.
  6. Make sure all financial accounts have been divided. A Judgment does not automatically divide financial and retirement accounts.  First, compare all the accounts you know about to the Judgment to create a list of all accounts which need to be divided.  If either you or your former spouse had a retirement account which was divided through the Judgment, be sure to contact the retirement plan administrator to have each spouse’s share of that account properly transferred to each spouse.  Also, contact all bank, investment, and financial account holders to divide the balances as stated in the Judgment.
  7. Keep your divorce file! Obtaining copies of your Judgment and other pleadings from the court take a lot of time and can be expensive.  Keep your Judgment until you are sure that both you and your former spouse have fulfilled all your responsibilities under the Judgment.
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