Post-Divorce Checklist

Posted: 17 September, 2019

The divorce is over. Take a moment to take a breath.  Just a moment, because there is still some T’s to cross and some I’s to dot.   Realize that the hard part is behind you. Now you can focus on moving forward.   There are still a few things you need to do.

Getting these seemingly small things out now, can prevent enormous headaches later.   Get everything done now, so you don’t have to worry about handling them in the future.  Plus, if you wait you may not be able to able to handle these issues as easily in the future.    For example,  two years from now your spouse may not agree to sign documents, and your attorney has moved to another state.  You would need to hire a new attorney and pay for them to learn about your case.

Create Your Post-Divorce Checklist

Your divorce decree may contain things you, or your spouse need to do.   Things you both agreed to in the divorce, and now need to be finalized.   Maybe a car title needs to be signed, or a quit claim deed filed.   Mainly administrative items.   Most of these items need to be completed within 30 days of the filing of the divorce decree.

Make a copy of your divorce decree.   Read your entire divorce decree.   Take a highlighter  and note the things you need to do.  Highlight the things your ex-spouse is required to complete.   Plan out when these items need to be completed, and who needs to do them.  Contact your divorce attorney if you think you need their help.

Titles & Deeds

If your divorce decree calls for a quitclaim deed or transfer of a car title, you should start getting these documents signed.  Even if you parted on good terms, it is unwise to leave these things open-ended. We have seen ex-spouses do strange and irrational things months after the divorce.  Get the title or deed changed now, while the court order is fresh in everyone’s memory.

If you divided property in such a way that you are now the sole owner of something (car, house, etc.), you will need to change the names on the title or deed. Otherwise, if you go to sell the property, you will need your ex-spouse to sign off.

A quitclaim deed transfers the interest in a property. Your divorce lawyer can draft this document for you and your spouse to sign.  Keep in mind that a quitclaim deed does not transfer the mortgage, only ownership of the property.   Taking names off a mortgage is not a standard practice. Most mortgage companies require that you re-qualify or refinance to take your spouse’s name off a mortgage.

Car titles are a little more complicated because the title typically connects to the loan. Take a look at the DMV Title page to learn more.  Contact your car loan company and see what they need. By changing the vehicle title, and registration your next step is to change the auto insurance.

Insurance

For simplicity, most couples have cars, home, and life insurance with the same company and the same agent. You also get discounts for having multiple cars and a home insured with the same company.  With the divorce, you will need to split your policies.   Contact your agent. See what your options are for getting your own insurance policies and any discounts.

You should  review all of your insurance policies; auto, home, life, health, and disability.   Contact your agent and discuss your divorce.  See if you need to change anything because of the divorce.

We have had couples in the past who wouldn’t call their  insurance agent.   They didn’t want the divorce to interrupt their health insurance coverage, or other coverage.    This is a false sense of security.   Most insurance companies void any coverage of a spouse after the divorce is filed.   Keeping this news from your insurance agent doesn’t protect you.   When the insurance company finds out you are not married, most will void your insurance all the way back to the divorce date.    Don’t get caught thinking you have insurance, after you divorced your spouse.   Do the right thing and check with your agent.

Bank Accounts & Credit Cards

Close down any joint accounts. The money should have already been divided equally at this point.  If you have not yet opened an account solely in your name, take care of that while you’re there.

Same goes for credit cards.  Make sure the cards are in your name only, and that your name is removed from any credit cards your spouse is still using.  Open a credit card in your name alone and use it to make a small credit purchase. This will start building your credit score.

Update online accounts like Paypal, Apple Pay, or E-trade.   Confirm your spouse isn’t either a signer or a beneficiary.  Change your name on these accounts if needed.

Pensions or 401K

Did you divide a retirement account, or pension?  Did you and your spouse divide your IRA’s or 401(k)’s? Contact the broker and start their process.

A 401(k) or pension will need a QDRO (Qualified Domestic Retirement Order) to make the transfer.  You can divide an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) or savings account without a QDRO.  A QDRO is a court order telling the pension or 401K how to divide the account.  Most QDRO’s need to be drafted by an attorney or CPA.  They are then filed with the court and signed with the judge.   Check with your attorney to see what needs to be done.   Don’t wait on this item.  You may only have a certain amount of time to divide the pensions, or retirement accounts.  Also, confirm that your spouse is not a beneficiary on any of these accounts.

One step often overlooked is the beneficiary. Make sure any retirement plan reflects the proper beneficiary.

Change Beneficiaries

Do you want your ex-spouse to be your beneficiary?  You will need to change your beneficiary on every bank account, investment account, and insurance policy you have.   After a divorce most beneficiaries are automatically voided by Nevada law.  But, to be sure, you should change them.

This will involve talking to your HR person work, your insurance agent, your bank, your credit cards, and your investment adviser.  Most places make changing the beneficiary a simple process. Usually it  is just a form you  fill out.

Wills & Trusts

You should update your will and/or trust.   If you don’t have one, now is be a good time to start both.  Everyone should have a will and medical directive.    They are both inexpensive to have drawn up.   Contact your divorce attorney and see who they would recommend for you to contact.

Taxes

Contact your tax guy or accountant. See if they need any particular information to file your taxes in accordance with the divorce decree. Taxes can get more complicated the year you divorce. If you normally prepare your taxes yourself, this might be a good time to have a professional help.   Check back over your divorce decree to make sure that you follow any tax instructions included in the decree.

Name Change

Did you request your name to be changed back to your maiden name? If so, you will need to start noticing  everyone of the change.  There are a dozen places to notice.   Focus on the social security first.  Then make the change with your  passport, and DMV.   These three are the big ones to notice.   The remaining are places like  voter registration, bank accounts, credit cards, and utility bills.

The Social Security Office requires a certified copy of the decree and identification. You can use your current passport or driver’s license for identification.  Your divorce lawyer can order a certified decree, or you can order them from the Las Vegas Family Court.  Here are instructions for changing your name with Social Security Office; Social Security Name Change.

The Nevada DMV requires you to change your name with Social Security Office before they will change your driver’s license. If you are getting a REAL ID, you will want to change your name with U.S. Passport Office first.

Email & Online Accounts

Finally, let’s look at making changes to any emails or online accounts. You may have already changed your Facebook status. Good.  Now it’s time to go through all your online accounts and change passwords. It doesn’t matter if your spouse didn’t know them. It’s still a wise idea. Change any contact information you feel is relevant too.