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Financial To-Do Lists for Major Life Changes

Life changes, such as getting married, divorced, having or adopting children, and facing widowhood require more than the subsequent emotional adjustment. These milestones also signal the need to review your financial situation and make any necessary adjustments.

Use the financial to-do lists below to keep your finances in order through these significant life changes.


  • Discuss your financial goals with each other — do you want to save for a new house? Have kids? Decide if you’ll pool your assets or maintain separate share draft/checking or savings accounts.
  • Review your credit histories — order your credit reports and clean up any credit problems before tying the knot.
  • Create or update your wills and powers of attorney.
  • Check your insurance — review your auto, health, property, disability, personal liability, and life insurance coverage. Update beneficiaries on your policies, IRAs (individual retirement accounts), and other investments.

Expecting a Child (birth or adoption)

  • Evaluate your budget — if you're planning on moving, buying a bigger car, or quitting work to raise a child, you'll need to create a budget to help you determine how to manage it financially.
  • Insurance coverage — visit your employee benefits department to find out what your policy covers and when to add a child to your policy. Also, research other employment policies regarding maternity or family leave and flex-spending accounts.
  • Create or update your wills — besides instructions about how the estate should be distributed, wills should include the name of the person chosen to be the child’s guardian. Parents may also wish to appoint a different person to be the guardian of the child's money.


  • Educate yourself — review financial accounts and determine where the money is. Pull credit reports to see if there are any credit cards or loans you don't know about.
  • Collect information — before your first visit to an attorney, make copies of all financial records, including statements from financial institutions and brokerage companies, tax returns for the past two or three years, mortgage, copies of financial statements on file at any financial institutions, insurance, safe deposit boxes, wills, and trusts.
  • Establish credit —open a checking and savings account in your name. You may also want to acquire a credit card in your name. Your local credit union is a great place to start when establishing credit.
  • Update wills and beneficiaries.
  • Close joint credit accounts — debt incurred in a joint account will follow both spouses after the divorce. Talk to your lawyer about how to best close joint accounts and limit your liability.
  • Get health insurance — if you have insurance through your spouse’s employment, you'll still be covered during the separation, but once you're divorced, you’ll need an individual health insurance plan.

Death of a Spouse or Parent

  • Get 10 death certificates — you'll need copies for your insurance, 401(k) payouts, Social Security, probate, and to change the title on any property.
  • Organize finances — list assets and liabilities; gather statements from financial institutions and brokerage companies, insurance policies, employment records, tax returns, etc.
  • Cancel accounts and services — check for and cancel any automatic or online bill-paying services unless you continue using them. Also, notify and cancel any accounts with health clubs, magazine subscriptions, and online services you won’t use.
  • Contact income providers — notify previous employers, pension fund administrators, and financial institutions holding IRAs or other retirement income accounts. Each may have a different beneficiary. Also, inform the Social Security Administration as soon as possible.
  • Contact life and health insurance providers — insurance companies will distribute money to the beneficiary listed on the policy. Don't cancel health insurance until all outstanding bills have been paid.

Staying organized helps make the transitions in life more manageable. Looking for ways to simplify your life before making significant changes will help even more. Check out the 6 Benefits of Simplifying Your Life and Finances for tips on creating a lifestyle to help you thrive. 


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