Are you fresh out of a divorce and glad to be done with the lengthy process? Don’t exhale just yet. The work may not be completely over. Before you get adjusted to your clean slate, there are a few things you need to do. Use this post-divorce checklist with recommendations from Paula Lock Smyth Law Offices to take care of business.
Changes to Property Arrangements
Whether it’s multiple properties or just a family home, you’ve had to come to an agreement or the Judge has ordered who will resume ownership of what items. In those cases, there are deeds, such as a Special Warranty Deed and a Deed of Trust to Secure Assumption concerning title to real property that need to be signed and exchanged. This is one of the first and most important tasks on the list. The sooner you address it, the sooner you’ll meet and complete your obligations. If you’re moving or surrendering some of your real property, I suggest updating your mailing and residential address as soon as possible, as often a divorce decree will require you to do so at least 60-days before your move.
In my experience, the court may order you to split, liquidate, or surrender assets. Or this may be something you agreed to do based upon a mediated settlement agreement or collaborative agreement. Retirement accounts may need to be divided. We use Domestic Relations Orders to accomplish this, which are then submitted to the retirement plan for qualification. Often, bank accounts are split. Cooperating with your former spouse will make this task much easier and more efficient.
Any of the above may fall under court orders. You might also have other responsibilities, such as turning over personal property, household items or collections or maintaining insurance for the children. Be prepared beforehand because most court orders have 30-day deadlines after the order is signed. Get those documents and processes rolling ahead of time, so you won’t find yourself rushing to meet your obligations. In a pinch, police may agree to do a “civil stand-by” if you are uncomfortable meeting your former spouse by yourself. Or take a trusted friend who will help “keep the peace.”
For some spouses, the first part of updating personal information would be deciding whether to keep or change your last name. It’s often included in a divorce decree, so be prepared to answer this question when you have your initial consultation. It’s a matter of preference and purpose. I’ve seen people keep their former last name, sometimes because of a long-term marriage, sometimes for business reasons or sometimes because children are involved. If you decide to change your last name, you need to update your social security card and get a new driver’s license, so be sure that you get at least one certified copy of the court order which includes your name change.
Other Documents to Update
- Auto insurance
- Life insurance (owners and beneficiaries)
- Homeowners insurance
- Bank accounts
- Credit accounts
What to Do with Your Will
Check to see what the laws are for wills executed during the marriage. According to Texas law, any designation of your ex-spouse as executor, beneficiary, or anything within that will is invalid at the time of divorce. You can re-designate your former spouse if you choose to do so. Sometimes the divorce decree will require you to do have life insurance to cover your child support obligation.
Right after the divorce is the perfect time to review and make changes to your will. You also need to redo the accompanying documents like the statutory durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, and the directive to physicians, also known as a “DNR”. These documents fill the gap in the event you are incapacitated or disabled and unable to make your own financial or medical decisions.
To summarize, you’re not free and clear just because the ink is dry on the divorce decree. There are obligations to meet for yourself, your children and sometimes your former spouse. This checklist helps you to organize your post-divorce actions so you can truly start to move on. Most important of all, your loved ones will benefit from updating your documents in the event of unforeseen circumstances.