If you find yourself with time on your hands, now is an opportunity to catch up on those after divorce “to do’s”.
Often, clients are so relieved the divorce is over, they put their divorce documents in a drawer, understandably wanting to move on. However, there are often deadlines, timelines, and follow up needed after the divorce. Now may be a good time to tend to those items that need wrapping up.
Tip 1: Retirement Transfer Orders
If retirement assets are to be transferred between you and your ex-spouse, have the necessary retirement orders been prepared? Filed with the court? Copies submitted to the retirement Plan? Accepted by the Plan?
Most transfers of retirement benefits between ex-spouses require a court order to carry out the transfer. Because retirement benefits are often one of the largest assets transferred in a divorce, it’s important to make sure this is done. If any questions, this really is best discussed with an attorney.
Tip 2: Death Benefits for Life Insurance & Retirement Assets
If an ex-spouse is not entitled to benefits from life insurance or retirement assets when you pass away, have you updated your life insurance and retirement beneficiary designations?
Even if a marital settlement agreement waives your ex-spouse’s right to these benefits upon your death, the life insurance company and retirement plan are not parties to your agreement. Avoid the unintended consequence of having death benefits paid to an ex-spouse who is not entitled to them. Update your beneficiary designations. Be sure life insurance beneficiaries are consistent with what your agreement requires.
Tip 3: Update Your Estate Planning Documents
If you haven’t, there’s no time like the end of a divorce to prepare an estate plan or update your existing (and now outdated) estate planning documents (Last Will & Testament, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive/Living Will). While you may have run out of steam, your records are as organized and updated as they are likely going to be for years to come. Take advantage of this, push through, and get these important documents done.
Tip 4: Review Your Settlement Agreement or Divorce Decree/Judgment of Absolute Divorce
While tempting never to look at these again, they often contain deadlines, timelines, and items needing follow up that can easily fall through the cracks. When reviewing, note items that require one-time wrap up versus those that require attention repeatedly (such as annually). Some common ones:
· Name Change: If in the Judgment of Absolute Divorce you resumed use of a former name, have you updated this with Social Security, MVA? Employment, life insurance, health insurance, bank, investment, and loan accounts?
· Home Ownership & Use & Possession: This frequently involves a number of deadlines. Review. Make sure you understand what needs to happen when. Schedule deadlines & reminders on your calendar.
· Car Title: Is title to be transferred? Have the appropriate forms been signed & submitted to MVA? If there is a loan against the car, title transfer cannot occur until the loan is paid off or refinanced to remove the non-owner ex-spouse. In that case, task/calendar the payoff date and chase up the title transfer then.
· Exchanging Documents: Sometimes, ex-spouses are required to exchange documents periodically. This may be required to show compliance with maintaining life insurance for a child’s or ex-spouse’s benefit or to exchange income information for spousal or child support purposes. Identify whether documents are to be exchanged, what documents, and how often. Then follow up.
· Bank & Financial Accounts: Have joint accounts been closed or retitled?
· Debts: Have joint accounts been closed or former authorized users removed? Pull your credit report to see what it shows.
· Utility Ownership: Identify any services provided through or jointly with your ex-spouse and arrange to separate, transfer, or change the account ownership.
· Taxes: Schedule an appointment with an accountant to review your agreement or divorce decree (if you haven’t already) for advice about what follow up is needed tax-wise.
In the immediate relief that often follows a divorce, it’s tempting to move on without looking back. Moving on also means wrapping up. Tending to this now will save you potential headaches in future.
If questions about what follow up is needed, consult with an appropriate professional, whether an attorney, accountant, realtor, mortgage broker, investment advisor…
Since 2002, Lindsay Parvis has represented clients in Maryland custody, divorce, and marital matters. She negotiates, litigates, and advocates for the best interests of her clients, whether in contested litigation, uncontested settlement, or premarital and other agreements. Her clients are not only spouses and parents, but also children whose interests she is appointed by the court to represent in contested custody litigation. Lindsay strives to improve Maryland law in the General Assembly, volunteering her time to monitor, advocate, and educate about legislative developments in family law.