Separating is never easy, and there can be so much to think about when you prepare to separate or divorce.
For those aged over 60, whose children have grown up and flown the nest, there are a few extra considerations to remember.
Ian Shann, specialist family mediator, has put together some of the things you need to consider after you separate.
You may need to update your will when you separate to ensure that your ex-partner does not end up inheriting your estate, in the event of your death.
Updating your Power of Attorney is equally important and should be reviewed as soon as possible following a separation, especially if your Attorney is your ex-partner or a relative or close associate of theirs.
The same principle may apply to the trustee of any trust you may have.
As you get older, an important document to have in place is a medical health directive.
If you have any existing health directives, if you’re unable to make the decisions yourself, your ex has been appointed to decide on any health matter on your behalf you should update it immediately.
You may also want to update any health directive that stipulates any particular treatment you want or don’t want to receive, whether you want to donate your organs or your body to medical science after you pass away.
As most couples nominate each other as beneficiaries on their life insurance, life policies need to be updated asap to suit your new situation.
Don’t forget other insurance policies, such as household, vehicle, etc. You will also want to ensure any previous jointly-owned assets that are no longer yours, are no longer your responsibility.
Private health insurance will most likely need to be updated to suit your new situation. When changing or switching health insurance providers, make sure that you have an appropriate level of cover for your current, as well as potential, future health needs.
If your separation is amicable, there can be a chance of remaining on the same health insurance cover for a time in order for both of you to continue to receive the same benefits going forward.
Be sure to discuss this with your ex if this is something that would be beneficial for both of you.
It’s of vital importance to notify your superannuation fund that if you need to update your nominated beneficiary when you separate.
You may wish to appoint your children as beneficiaries, instead of your ex.
Only a binding nomination form can legally guarantee that your beneficiary will be the person to receive your super funds, so check that you have completed one recently – some super funds require these to be updated periodically to remain valid.
If you co-own your property and it was mortgaged while you were together, notify your bank of the changes in your situation, and advise who will be responsible for the payments. This may require some frank discussions about your finances to come to an agreement.
It’s a good topic to raise at family mediation if you choose to go down that path for your divorce settlement.
Alternatively, if you have been renting, notify the landlord, so they too know who is responsible for the rent in the future.
Ensure all joint accounts are closed and new ones are opened in your name only.
This will ensure that your former partner no longer has access or signing rights to your accounts.
Change your banking passwords if you have any accounts to which your ex had access in the past, and check and update them regularly. Internet access is a whole area in itself so make sure your ex can’t access your personal information or contacts. New passwords and double-factor authentication can and should be set up easily and quickly.
If you had joint credit card debt, you’ll first need to agree with your ex how much each party will be responsible for, before closing the joint credit card accounts. Usually, credit card accounts will have a primary cardholder who the bank or financial provider will go to for payment.
Remember to cancel or amend any automatic payments you may have had if necessary.
The same will apply to any joint personal loans you may have had.
Once you have reached an agreement with your ex as to who is responsible for what bill or debt, inform all providers.
Such bills and debts could include, water and electricity, mobile phone, internet, vehicle repayments, and TV subscriptions.
If you have been receiving any benefit payments from Services Australia, notify them of the changes in your situation to determine whether you’re entitled to any new or amended benefits.
Remember, if you have not been receiving any assistance from them in the past, your new situation may entitle you to start receiving certain benefits.
Certainly, any aged pension payments you may have been receiving will be affected and need to be adjusted from a joint payment to a single payment for each of you, so don’t delay advising Services Australia.
The last thing you need is a potential debt to them if they determine you have been overpaid.
Joint email accounts aren’t really viable after any separation. Ensure you close them and open a new one in your individual names if you don’t already have your own separate email account.
There are plenty of free online email providers out there, the main one being Gmail.
Many older couples share a social media account to make life a little easier. However, joint social media accounts are a definite no-no during and after any separation, especially if your separation is not panning out to be an amicable one.
Social media is often an important communication tool for over 60s, helping us to keep in touch with family and friends who we may not see too often. So when you separate, if you had a joint social media account, set up a new one just for yourself.
If your separation is or has been one of high conflict, for an extra level of security, use the maximum security settings. Be very careful what you post too as these can be used against you as part of the divorce proceedings. The best option is to keep your separation issues completely away from any social media platform.