FINALLY! After an emotional roller coaster, you get that 8 ½ by 11 manila envelope with your divorce decree signed by the judge. You are officially a single person once again. You may celebrate, or you may mourn on that day, but stay focused, you’re not quite done yet. There are some critical items that you want to take care of right away.
Review Your Decree - First, make sure you fully understand what’s in that envelope and what’s been awarded to you. There’s a good chance that you now need to have a QDRO (https://www.latebloomdivorce.com/post/do-you-really-need-a-qdro) prepared to split a retirement plan. Don’t delay! Get that going now to ensure a timely split of the account. Now is a great time to sit down with a financial advisor (https://www.latebloomdivorce.com/connect) to map out your new financial plan, open any new accounts necessary and consolidate any old ones.
Review all accounts - Be sure to remove your former spouse’s name from any existing accounts including utilities, banks, credit cards, insurance policies, etc. If you don’t already have one, get a credit card in your name alone. Now is the time to establish your own financial identity.
Get Organized – If you’ve never had one, create a filing system for all of your important financial documents as well as any statements that need to be retained for taxes. If you’re tech savvy, this might be 100% electronic but it needs to exist.
Review Estate Docs – Be sure to update all your beneficiaries on accounts and insurance policies immediately. I could tell you nightmare stories of a former spouse inheriting huge 401(k) plans because someone forgot to update the beneficiaries.
Write a New Will – Everything has changed. Be sure your new wishes are clear so there is no confusion. If you have any trusts in place, you’ll need to have them terminated and create new ones.
When you get your final decree, it may feel like a new beginning. You may be sad about the old life, but hopefully you will feel your heart swell a little in anticipation of the new one. Years down the road, you may be convinced that your divorce was one of the biggest blessings of your life. What if divorce was the needed change to allow you to become a much healthier, well-rounded, happier person? The business side of things isn’t tons of fun, but with each step you’ll feel your new independence and identity sinking in and it will all help you to heal.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Make it count!