Wills and Trusts are both legal tools that give instructions on how to handle your possessions…
Divorce can be one of the most stressful life experiences for many obvious reasons. Once the proceeding is completed and a Judgment for Dissolution has been entered ending the legal relationship, take the time to process what just transpired and allow yourself to heal. After that much-needed recovery time, consider the following to ensure you are on a path of restoration with all your personal affairs:
Update or create your estate plan.
Perhaps you and your former spouse had an estate plan created when you were married. While those documents are still valid, they likely reference your spouse as a beneficiary, trustee, executor or agent to act on your behalf if you become physically or mentally incapacitated or die. Amendments should be made to reference new individuals. Fiduciaries and beneficiaries should be reviewed and replaced to insure that your post-divorce intentions conform those expressions in your estate plan. If you do not have previous estate planning, make the time and effort to plan as a priority and rest well knowing that your wishes will be realized should something happen to you.
Ensure your spouse is no longer on your accounts.
The money within any bank accounts was likely divided through a Judgement and Marital Settlement Agreement, but you need to ensure those changes take place. You should close any joint bank or credit card accounts and remove your spouse as an authorized signatory, if applicable, on personal accounts. You should also remove your former spouse as a death beneficiary on any accounts that have been assigned to you through the divorce process whether it is a retirement plan, life insurance or other asset with a death beneficiary designation. You will not regret the time and effort to make it a priority because to leave it undone is malpractice.
Re-title vehicles, homes, and other assets.
The determination on what happens to property like a marital residence or vehicles is often outlined in a Marital Settlement Agreement, but it is your responsibility to properly remove your former spouse from ownership through a Quit Claim Deed or title transfer. Depending on the type of asset, it may be in your best interest to consult an attorney to determine if a trust based or joint ownership should be pursued. When determining a strategic approach to retitling assets, it is important to have a list of total assets and values. Not only is retitling assets necessary after a divorce, but it becomes crucial along with a well-designed estate plan, in avoiding probate.
Each relationship is different therefore making a divorce proceeding unique. The list above is certainly not inclusive of all tasks, but the ones we feel are most important to protect you.