After the Divorce: Tidying Your Post-Settlement To-Do List

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A lot of people think that when the final documents of the divorce settlement are signed, everything is over and complete. Not quite—there’s a good deal of financial, personal, and legal housekeeping that still needs to be done.

Start with Your Divorce Settlement or Agreement

It’s critical to read your divorce settlement closely and carefully, and it can actually serve as the basis of a checklist for you. Even though it’s pretty common for people to mentally and emotionally shut down after a divorce, there are still important things that your agreement requires you to do.

Keep an eye on your timetable. You might need to refinance your house within a certain period of time, or you might be required to enter qualified domestic relations orders (QDRO) immediately.

Sometimes, there’s a date by which you need to gather personal property from a house or storage unit. I’ve seen it happen that someone needed to pick up some items by a certain deadline, but they never came to get them, and so their belongings were thrown away.

Updating Beneficiaries and Name Changes

It’s likely that there will be some tasks to complete that aren’t necessarily in your divorce agreement. First, change the beneficiaries of accounts such as your retirement funds. You’ll want to draw up a new estate plan, will, and trust, too.

Keep in mind that under Illinois law, named beneficiaries will receive payouts regardless if your divorce settlement says those funds should go somewhere else. To put it another way, you could inadvertently be paying out to an ex-spouse if you forget to update your documents.

Beneficiary names aren’t the only ones to change—you might consider returning to your maiden name. Ensure that you’ve updated your records with the Secretary of State’s office and with Social Security. Otherwise, this could cause you problems later when it comes to receiving certain benefits.

Though you’re not required by law to change your last name, you have to take affirmative steps if you plan on changing it—you can’t just start using the name again. You’ll need to update your license, bank accounts, credit cards, and more. You don’t want different names listed with different government institutions and services.

Taking a New Direction

This post-divorce housekeeping is important because it sets you off in your new direction. Taking care of this post-settlement to-do list moves you forward in your life.

You’re now divorced, and there are a lot of things that need to be done to effectuate the division of property, or to set up accounts you’re going to use for your children, among other obligations.

A fresh start with a new will, new living arrangements, and maybe even a “new” last name means you’re open to new possibilities.

If you need assistance in matters of family law, divorce settlements, or Collaborative Divorce, contact us at The Law Offices of Patrick Markey, P.C., serving the greater Chicago area with offices downtown and in Oak Park.