Throughout the divorce process, there are many procedures for both parties to follow such as gathering information for financial statements, discussing settlement or child custody, and attending court hearings. Once the divorce judgment is finalized, this relieves an immense amount of stress. However, there is more that must be done before everything can be checked off your ‘to-do’ list.
Aside from generally executing the necessary provisions of your separation agreement, there are various other post-divorce considerations. These less obvious obligations may get overlooked by clients and as you begin a new chapter in your life, it is important to tie up any loose ends. This checklist will help guide you through what to do after a divorce.
Review and change beneficiaries of accounts.
It is typical for married couples to own assets that will automatically transfer to one spouse upon the death of the other. The most common assets that fall under this category include life insurance or health insurance policies, bank or investment accounts, and retirement accounts. For retirement accounts, the court may order a Qualified Divorce Relations Order, which is the parties’ responsibility to prepare and execute.
Review estate plans.
Luckily, Massachusetts General Laws Section 2-804 automatically rescinds any rights in the former spouse’s will. However, you may still desire to review and revise your will. Furthermore, this provision does not apply to contractual interests like trusts. Trusts will need to be manually reviewed and updated.
Review health care proxies and power of attorney designations.
After divorce, you may no longer want your former spouse to make health decisions on your behalf. You will want to execute a health care proxy and power of attorney to name new fiduciaries. You may also consider completing a new HIPAA form to protect certain health information from your former spouse.
Change property title(s).
If real property was held jointly, as tenants in common, you or your spouse will have to change title. This most often applies to property like real estate or automobiles. It is important to note that your ability to make title changes may be limited by the property settlement in your divorce.
Exchange tax returns annually.
Depending on the terms of the separation agreement, it may require that spouses exchange tax returns to evaluate child support or alimony support orders. (See our previous blog detailing tax season considerations.)
Take steps to resume your former name.
During your divorce you may have obtained an order allowing you to legally change your last name. In your initial complaint, joint petition, or counterclaim for divorce you can ask to resume your former name. However, you may also make this request at the final divorce hearing or by filing a separate petition for a name change. Once you have a court order with your former name restored, you need to have your name changed at the Social Security Office in addition to making changes to your license, passport, and credit cards.
At Ryder & Phelps, P.C., our attorneys work diligently to assist you through all stages of the divorce proceedings. Our experienced lawyers can help guide you through estate planning or necessary post-filings. Contact our office at (978) 381-1660 or visit our website at www.ryderandphelpslaw.net to book a consultation.