Now that the divorce is over, and after you’re done celebrating, it’s time to take care of post-divorce financial responsibilities.
Update Your Estate Plan and Retirement Accounts
Now that your divorce is over, your ex-spouse no longer has any entitlement (in NY, the term is “elective share”) to a share of your estate so it’s time to update your estate plan, if you have one, or to change your existing will, trust(s), power of attorney, living will, health care proxy, insurances and beneficiary designations.
As part of your post-divorce planning, you need to consider who you should rely on to make financial and medical decisions if you can’t. Perhaps there is one person in your life who can be depended on for financial and medical decisions, but more often those skills are found in different people. In any event, you’re free to choose any adult that you want, and you can appoint more than one person to take on a decision-making role if you are more comfortable with a group process to reach a decision. You should appoint a successor (or successors) to any of the decision-making roles, just in case your first choice becomes unavailable. You can discuss the pros and cons of these appointments with an experienced estate attorney.
You should also review all of your assets and make sure that your ex no longer has title to anything of yours, no longer has any access to your accounts, and is no longer a beneficiary of any of your accounts. Also, make sure that all contact information – including home and email addresses – is updated. Here’s a list of accounts to review.
- Credit Cards
- Bank Accounts
- Investment Accounts
- Property and Auto Insurance
- Life Insurance, Accidental Death and Disability Insurance, including updating beneficiaries
- Retirement Plans, including updating beneficiaries
- Home ownership
- Title of Home and Vehicles
- Health Insurance, HSA accounts and any other accounts you have through your employment
Consult Advisors and Educate Yourself
If you were not the person making financial decisions during the marriage you need to get access to expert advice before making any significant financial decisions, including the acquisition of assets and the taking on of liabilities. Having a financial planner or wealth advisor in place can help you sort out how to budget for your post-divorce income and assets and maintain your lifestyle.
Gaining knowledge – particularly if you used to rely on someone else for financial decisions – is key. It is your responsibility to make sure that you know how assets are being managed and the reason for the management plan. If your finances are complex and you rely on several professionals, make sure that everyone is on the same page and that you understand the plan and your responsibility for fulfilling the plan.