Whether you negotiated your divorce agreement or had a trial, the result is a divorce decree. Receiving a divorce decree means your divorce is final. However, it does not mean you are completely finished with the divorce.There may be action items in your divorce decree and you may still have work to do to ensure your rights and interests are protected. Newly divorced parties need to figure out if there are any issues that require action and then take care of them as soon as possible.
Common examples of action items include:
Changing your beneficiaries. Your estate plan, life insurance policy, brokerage accounts and retirement accounts all have designated beneficiaries. Chances are, the current beneficiary is your ex-spouse. If the decree allows, take the time to change this so that the person you choose receives the benefits. At the same time, you will generally wish to choose a new person for your financial and medical powers of attorney. Be aware of any provisions in your divorce decree that relate to your estate plan.
Re-titling the house and car. If possible, remove your ex’s name from the title to the house and from the mortgage. This may require you to refinance your mortgage. Talk to an attorney familiar with real estate law. Also, if your ex is listed on the title to the car, you should have that changed and tell your auto insurer that your ex is no longer an approved driver.
Changing your name. If you plan to change your name as a result of the divorce, you will need to deliver a certified copy of your divorce decree to the Social Security Administration, the Division of Motor Vehicles and, if applicable, the passport office. Once you have new documents from these sources, you can more easily update your bank accounts, credit cards, library cards and other documents with your official name.
Making any required property transfers. As part of the division of property in your divorce, you may have been ordered to split your 401(k) accounts, IRAs or other retirement accounts. If this is part of your decree, you need a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to allow your plan administrator to make the transfers without your accruing any taxes or penalties.
Open new financial accounts or change the title on joint accounts. By their nature, joint accounts belong to both people. You need your own, separate accounts.
Purchase any life or health insurance required by your divorce decree.
After these and any similar items are taken care of, you can move forward with your new life with confidence.