If you don’t update them, you won’t like what happens.
There are just a ton of legal, financial and medical documents you’re expected to keep track of to help protect and provide for you (and your family) in all kinds of different situations. For most of us it is overwhelming to try to understand and manage it all – especially when you’re going through the divorce roller coaster of emotions.
Unfortunately, there are lots of people who don’t bother with updating or changing any document outside of the divorce decree. That’s where the problems start. For example, if you were to forget to update the beneficiary to your IRA, your ex could inherit it.
Because it is so difficult to keep track of all the documents you might have and want to update when you get divorced, here’s a list of some of the more common documents you’ll want to make sure to update when you get divorced. (You’ll also want to review them on a yearly basis too.)
- Retirement Plans (e.g., 401K, IRA, pension plan, etc.)* Retirement plans are monies set aside for an individual’s retirement. When the individual dies, their beneficiary will receive these monies.
- Life Insurance Policy* A life insurance policy can provide for your family after your death and pay for your funeral costs.
- Will & Trust* These documents can identify the persons or entities that will receive your property when you die, for you to appoint a guardian for your minor children, appoint those you wish to manage your estate, and revoke or alter a previous will. Remember to update your beneficiaries to reflect your new marital status. You’ll probably also want to review the guardians and managers of your estate.**
- W-4* This document helps your employer to withhold the correct federal income tax from your pay. With your changed marital status, you might want to adjust your number of dependents to reflect your newly single status.**
- Medical Treatment Authorization and Consent Form* This form is important when your children are not with either a parent or legal guardian. Because your children are probably in different care situations than before your divorce, you might want to make sure whomever is watching your children can help your children get appropriate medical care should they need it.**
- Medical Power of Attorney* This document designates a person whom you trust to make health care decisions on your behalf should you be unable to make those decisions. You’ll probably want to make sure you update who this person is.**
- Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates* A directive helps you communicate your wishes about medical treatment if you are no longer to make decisions due to illness or incapacity. Most people have their spouse listed as the person to make these decisions. If this is what you’ve done, you’ll probably want to make sure to update who this person is.**
- HIPPA Authorizations at each of your doctors* The HIPPA allows you to indicate who besides you may have access to your medical information. We usually complete these forms allowing the doctor’s office to leave your healthcare information with our spouse. If you did this, you might want to change this at each of your doctor’s offices.**
* The purposes identified in this list are just casual descriptions. For legal descriptions, you’ll want to contact the appropriate authority.
** The changes to consider are just suggestions. You’ll want to work with the appropriate authority to verify which changes are appropriate for you.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Which of these documents do you have? For each of the documents listed in the table that you’ve already got, take the time to review and update them.
Which of these documents are you missing? For each of the documents you are missing, look at the purpose of the document and see if you want or need to have it. For each document that you want or need, have the appropriate professional create it for you.
Where are your documents? There are some documents that you’ll want to keep handy. You’ll want to make sure that the appropriate family members know where your documents are kept. You’ll probably also want to make copies of the documents for yourself and family members so everyone who might need them has them.
There are other documents, like the HIPPA Authorizations at each of your doctor’s offices, which someone else will keep the originals of so that you’ll just have copies. You’ll want to keep tabs on these as well so you’ll have an easy time updating them next year.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
If you’re looking for more help on how to navigate the challenges of your life now, read more articles on Life After Divorce.
Life changes a lot when you separate and divorce. Things that used to be a regular part of life just aren’t anymore. And when things change in unexpected ways, we can get scared, frustrated and angry.
When clients begin working with me, they’re usually experiencing some combination of fear, frustration and anger. One of the first things we do is dive into what’s behind or at the root of these emotions. What we usually discover on our deep dive are limits that have been disregarded in some way. The limits could be behaviors, expectations, thoughts, beliefs or even habits.
The identification of your personal limits is a critical part of restructuring your life during and after divorce.
Some people are quite adept at identifying their limits – what they can and can’t do, what they think and why they think it, what they expect and why they expect it and what their habits of thought, belief, response and action are.
Others aren’t as aware of their limits. They aren’t quite sure of what their limits are or even if they want to know because they do and think what others tell them to.
And then there are people everywhere in between these two extremes.
Regardless of your starting point, I think knowing and understanding your limits is one of the key pieces to successfully navigating divorce. Your limits can help you understand what’s truly important to you as you negotiate your settlement. And knowing your limits will even allow you to ask for help and support when you need it.
Your limits will be tested, pushed, prodded, and beat against before, during, and after your separation and divorce. Who’s doing all this “exploring”? EVERYONE. Or at least it will probably feel that way. However, the chief “explorers” are usually your soon-to-be-ex and you. I’ll bet you already get how your soon-to-be-ex figures in here, but did you expect to also be one the chief “explorers”? The thing is that by virtue of going through the divorce process you’re asking yourself to completely redefine what your life is like. And anytime you or anyone else changes it’s a matter of testing and exploring previous limits.
I know all the testing, pushing, prodding, and beating against limits is at a minimum uncomfortable and at worst excruciating. However, the payoff is either an adjustment or a reaffirming of your limits along with, ideally, improved ways of communicating them to yourself and others. With your new limits you’re most often better off than you were with your old limits. Kinda like that old adage – what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.
Great, right? There’s going to be some struggle and then things will be better. UGH! There’s nothing there about how to make the transition from married to divorce easier! And here’s where I’m going to tell you that the way to make things easier is to be flexible and loving while you’re exploring your limits so you can adjust and evaluate them by choice instead of by force.
By allowing yourself to be flexible as you explore your limits you’ll be much more able to understand and choose what to do with your limits and your life as you move forward through your divorce process. The flexibility will also allow you to negotiate from a more confident spot because you’ll be able to more easily see the options available to you. Developing the ability to be flexible will help you now as you’re navigating your divorce, but throughout your life.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Know your limits. As you’re proceeding through your separation and divorce process take note of your limits. You’ll probably become aware of them most easily when you’re experiencing a strong emotion.
Explore your limits. Once you’ve identified a limit, ask yourself questions like “How did I develop this limit?”, “What’s the benefit of this limit?”, and “What might adjusting this limit be like?” Take note of what you discover about yourself.
Adjust your limits. Exploring limits almost always gives you new ideas of how to be, act, and think. Take advantage of your discoveries and adjust your limits in ways that make you feel wonderful!
As always, I’m here if you need some help in increasing your flexibility. You can reach my by email at email@example.com and by phone at 817-993-0561.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
© 2012 Karen Finn. All rights reserved under all copyright conventions.
I love the Beatles. OK, it’s more accurate to say I love the Beatles album 1. I consider it “happy music” and often put it on when I’ve got a long drive ahead of me or when I just need a pick-me-up. One of the songs on the album is Help!
If you’re not familiar with the lyrics of the song, you can find them on Metro Lyric’s website. For me, the idea behind the song is that we learn how to be independent when we’re young and as we grow and mature we yearn and search for interdependence.
When we’re born we’re completely dependent on others and essentially helpless. All we can do is cry and scream when we want help. Then, when we turn about 2 we begin to discover our own power and the magic word “NO!”. That’s when our natural desire is to begin to find out who we are independent of our parents. Most of us tend to begin intently striving for our independence during our teen years. Some of us wait until we get to college to become independent and some, like me, don’t realize our full independence until much later. Regardless of when you establish your independence, it’s an important milestone and the ability to exclaim “I did it!” is one of the headiest moments anyone can experience.
And yet, after we’ve achieved independence and it’s glories, there’s often the desire for connection with others. I’m not talking about a temporary connection, but a deep meaningful connection that helps us to know that we’re not alone in our life. This is the search for interdependence and where we recognize our true power – our ability to be part of something so much larger than us that nurtures and supports us and everyone else in ways beyond what we could ever do on our own.
The key to this power, our true power, is the ability to be vulnerable and ask for help when we need it. This is different that asking for help simply because you want something that you’re unwilling to do for yourself. This is about asking for help because you’ve been working toward and straining for something and you realize you’re just not able to do it all on your own, you need the help of someone to take the next step, to ease some of the burden, to be connected with all that you can be and all that is. This is the type of asking that true interdependence demands. I believe this is true maturity. I also believe this interdependence creates a joy and meaning in life that is beyond compare.
My thought is that we all live lives that are combination of dependent and interdependent thoughts, habits, beliefs and actions. I think of the path between dependent, independent and interdependent being a continuum. Probably the easiest way to visualize it is as a line with dependent at the far left, independent someplace in the middle and interdependent is at the far right.
I’ve yet to meet someone who is living completely interdependent life. Of course, there are lots of people I’ve not met yet.
Your Friendly Coaching Assignment:
Where are you on the continuum of living a dependent, an independent and an interdependent life? What I find is that the answer depends on which part of my life I’m thinking about. You may find the same is true for your too. If that’s the case, answer the question for each part of your life. I’m sure your answer(s) will be interesting.
Are there parts of your life that you’d like to move more toward independent or interdependent? This can be a tough question to answer for a lot of people because we aren’t really sure if such a change is possible or we might be plain afraid of the consequences of such a change.
If you answered “no” to the last question, good for you! Chances are great that you’re comfortable with your life exactly as it is now. That’s a wonderful thing!
If you answered “yes” to the last question, get ready for an adventure! Figuring out how to realize more of your own power is the greatest adventure anyone can take. You’ll discover so much about yourself that you’ll be in awe of whom you truly are and who those around you are. That’s been true for me anyway. I also know that it’s not always the easiest adventure to undertake and yet every time I move from dependence to independence and then to interdependence I am ALWAYS happy I have.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I help people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice.