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3 post-divorce steps every parent needs to take

If you've recently finished your divorce, you're probably ready to breathe a big sigh of relief -- but there's actually a few more "housekeeping" chores that need to be done.

Here the major post-divorce tasks that you need to handle as soon as possible:

1. Your will and other end-of-life documents

When you were married, you probably named your spouse as your heir in your will. You probably also named your spouse as the person who held your powers-of-attorney for medical decisions and financial decisions if you were incapacitated. Unless your relationship with your ex-spouse is unusually cordial, it's time to put someone else in charge.

2. Your beneficiary designations on all assets

Do you have a life insurance policy? What about a retirement account through work? Do you have a checking account, savings account or other holdings? If so, all of those things need to have a beneficiary listed in the event that something happens to you. If the worst should happen, that will keep those assets out of probate.

3. A trust for your children

This is one that few divorced parents stop to think about, but it really should be an essential step. When you're married, you automatically assume that your spouse will have custody of the kids if you die -- and all of their money. When you're divorced, you may not be comfortable with that idea.

While your ex-spouse will probably gain full custody of the kids (barring unusual circumstances), there's no rule that says he or she has to be in charge of monies left in their names. A trust can hold all of the assets you want to go to your children after they are grown.

Post-divorce life takes some adjustment. Part of that adjustment is to your way of thinking. You need to approach all family legal matters from the mindset of a single parent -- which may be very different than you've ever done before.

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