A divorce brings with it a host of changes and not all those changes will occur before the final orders. Even after a divorce, you may find yourself needing to make a host of changes. Here are some items you should be prepared to alter:
- If you change your name as part of the divorce, be prepared to change a lot of other things. Here are some documents where you will want to get your name changed on right away.
- Driver’s license
- Social Security Card
- Titles: Real property (home titles and land titles) and vehicle titles.
- Voter registration
- Employment information
- Banking details
- Phone Caller ID
- Insurance. By law, insurance cannot be changed when the divorce is pending. But once the divorce is final, insurance should be changed—and, in some cases, must be changed. Home, auto, health, etc. should be changed to your name alone.
- Health Insurance. Of these, health insurance is perhaps the most important. We get lots of questions about divorce. Many worry that they might lose insurance if they get divorced outside of the open enrollment period. In actuality, a divorce is a life event that allows someone to sign up for insurance outside the open enrollment period. Many also worry about pre-existing conditions affecting the cost of insurance. By law, insurers are not allowed to price their insurance policies based on pre-existing conditions. Additionally, if you have insurance through your spouse’s employer, there may be an option for you to continue that insurance for up to 18 months after the divorce under state and federal COBRA law.
- Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorneys, Etc. You may have set up your will and trust intending for your spouse to be the beneficiary. Now a divorce has happened. Whether you want to keep your spouse as a beneficiary or not, it’s time to update the will and trust. State law automatically revokes an ex-spouse as a beneficiary for any will, trust, power of attorney, individual-initiated IRA, private life insurance or annuity if that instrument was created during the marriage. So, you’ll need to pick a new beneficiary for those items. And if you want your ex-spouse to remain your beneficiary, you need to re-execute these documents after the divorce.
- 401ks, pensions, retirement, etc. On the flip side, with certain financial instruments, federal law overrides state laws that revoke beneficiaries upon divorce. This is for employer-provided or federal government-provided retirement accounts and benefits. These include 401k’s, pensions, federal retirement, employer-provided retirement, profit-sharing plans, employer-initiated IRA’s, employer-provided life insurance, and 403(b) tax-sheltered annuities. For those, you need to go your human resources director or plan manager and directly change the beneficiary. If you originally listed your ex-spouse as the beneficiary of these accounts, they will remain the beneficiary until you change it.
- Vehicle Titles, Insurance, and Financing. One of the most important items to change right away is the vehicle title, insurance, and financing. Only the spouse awarded that vehicle should be on any of those documents. Why is this so important? Liability. If your ex-spouse causes an accident driving a car on which you are on the title, you could be civilly liable for that accident. Or, if there’s a loan on a vehicle awarded to your spouse, and your spouse defaults on the loan, the lender can come after you. It’s best to work together to get the title, insurance, and financing change as soon as possible. We like to put a 30-day deadline on this in our Decrees.
- Open Lines of Credit. If you and your spouse ever signed up for an open line of credit (e.g., a credit card, a HELOC, or a loan), we recommend paying it off and closing it as soon as possible. If you don’t, your spouse could use them, and it’s possible you could be liable because a divorce decree is binding on the parties, but it does not disrupt pre-existing private contracts such as that between a borrower and creditor; therefore, it’s critical to end any borrower-creditor relationships that existed during the marriage.
- Mortgages, Loans, and Home Titles. For similar reasons, you want to make sure your name is off any houses or other real estate awarded to your spouse. Having your name on a mortgage could either make it difficult for you to get a mortgage of your own—or even a place to rent. It could also impact the interest rates on your next mortgage. The best way to take your name off a mortgage is to refinance.
- Emergency Contacts. You’ve probably listed your spouse as an emergency contact at more places than you care to remember: At your work, at your doctor’s, at your dentist’s, probably even at your pet’s vet or doggy day care. You will probably want to update those to notify a family member or close friend instead.
- Bills & Accounts. You are going to want to get your name off any utilities, leases, or other bills for which you are no longer receiving any benefit. You also are going to want to get your spouse’s name of any accounts for which you are receiving a benefit, including some things you might not think of, such as your Netflix or Amazon Prime account.
In case you missed it, don’t forget to read our blog Ten Things to Change at the Start of a Divorce.