After all the heartache and struggle of reaching a divorce agreement, Cinderella, you probably feel emotionally drained and confused. Maybe you wonder: Whatever happened to “happily ever after”?
The good news is, it’s still possible to have that happy ending. Now that you’re on your own, though, it will occur on your terms, not someone else’s.
You’ve gotten a great start on financial self-care by educating yourself about all your and your ex-spouse’s financial assets and liabilities, freezing joint accounts and opening new ones in your own name, and assembling your team of trusted advisors to provide support as you embark on a journey toward self-reliance.
Freedom isn’t free
Most likely, you feel like crawling into a hole right now. Maybe you’re gripped by those old demons of yearning for someone to take care of you. It felt nice, didn’t it, to have your needs met?
You paid a price for it, though—one that was too high. Being on your own feels more precarious, but independence can be far more rewarding than dependence. (Men, by the way, already know this.)
Nothing worth having ever comes easy. Before you can reap your rewards, you still have work to do.
- What’s in a name? You decide. Do you want to keep your ex’s last name, take your given name back, or adopt a new last name for the new you? Get your name change written in your divorce decree to save yourself time, trouble, and money later. And if you do revert or change your name, remember to file updates to your:
- Driver’s license
- Social Security card
- Insurance policies (medical, auto and home)
- Employer (your ex-spouse and yours) and professional licenses
- Credit cards
- Property records, real estate ownership, and auto titles
- Retirement and investment accounts
- In the meantime, take care of your finances. Provide each of your financial institutions with a copy of your divorce decree and a letter of instruction so they can separate your assets from your ex’s. Hopefully, you’ve followed the suggestions in the previous article in this series, and opened accounts solely in your name so the institutions have a place to put your share of the assets. These accounts include:
- Bank accounts
- Brokerage accounts
- Qualified plans, 401k, employer-sponsored plans, deferred compensation
- IRAs (traditional, Roth, SEP, simple)
Also, you or your spouse will need to file quit-claim deeds giving up ownership of any property transferred between you, such as houses, automobiles, or other personal property.
- Look ahead, and plan for the future. If you should be hospitalized or die, how do you want your medical care to be handled? What about your estate--who will inherit your assets? These decisions are now exclusively yours. Put them in writing now, often with an attorney’s help, so you can be sure they are honored when the time comes. Options include:
- Update your last will and testament. Chances are, you don’t want your ex to inherit your money, property, or other assets when you die. Who will you leave it to?
- Draw up a medical directive. Also known as a living will, this document establishes your wishes for treatment and interventions should you become incapacitated.
- Establish a revocable trust. If you want to leave money or property in trust for someone, you can set up the trust now and still administer the holdings—collecting the revenue it generates until you die.
- Designate your Power of Attorney. If for some reason—you are out of the country or disabled, for instance—you need someone to make decisions or conduct transactions on your behalf, they will need your Power of Attorney. You can grant this power to someone now for them to exercise in a future instance (a “springing” Power of Attorney) such as your becoming mentally or physically incapable of acting on your own behalf.
- Designate other beneficiaries. Update your beneficiaries on your on your retirement account, life insurance and annuities, even if these are spelled out in your will.
- Meet with your financial advisor. A new life may require a new game plan, and your financial planner can help you navigate choices not only for your immediate financial needs but also for the long term.
We are here to help. We work with people in transition who want to live their best lives. We help them have a financial plan that helps them navigate through this challenging chapter.
Welcome to your new life. Although freedom can feel exhilarating and frightening all at once, it holds great promise—and many responsibilities. You are in charge of yourself, now. No more kissing frogs, hoping for a prince. You don’t need no stinking frogs! You’ve got this, on your own, with the backing of your support team. You need only trust your survival instincts for true “thrivival.”
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Fulcrum Financial Group and LPL Financial do not provide legal advice or services.