Insurance for Starting Over

​​​​​​​Divorce paperwork being signed

Last Updated: November 10, 2021


Death and divorce change many aspects of your life, including your insurance needs. During difficult times, it's important to make sure that you and your family are financially protected with the right insurance coverage. 


Following someone’s death, there are important and often time-sensitive decisions to make. The person making the decisions is often the spouse or partner of the person who has died. Prepare in advance by organizing papers, writing down (but keeping confidential) account passwords and logins, and keeping your estate planning documents up to date. This can be a huge help to the loved ones we leave behind.  

AARP provides some valuable information about what needs to be done when a loved one dies:

You will need to change the title of any cars owned by the decedent. You can change a title with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV​ ​ can tell you what needs to be done to change a title. You may also need to change the name on the policy of your automobile insurance.
If the decedent was employed at the time of death, contact the employer about any health, accident or life insurance. In some cases, an employee’s health insurance can be continued for a surviving spouse or dependent children. Consider whether you need to purchase your own or additional health insurance. 

If you lose your health insurance, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period  through
After a death, you may need to transfer ownership or change the title on property. If you owned a house with the decedent and there is a mortgage outstanding, you’re now responsible for that debt. If there is mortgage insurance on the loan, the outstanding mortgage balance on your house or part of the outstanding balance may be payable by the insurance. You will also need to adjust your homeowners insurance accordingly. 


Divorce is a different sort of loss, but one that leaves many people overwhelmed and with many important decisions to make. Divorce has a serious​ impact on finances and credit. Untangling finances, dividing joint assets, and managing expenses is critically important.

If the divorce is especially contentious, insurance can be used as a economic weapon of revenge. Here are some tips to protect yourself financially: 

  • Make sure that your insurer knows how to contact you if there are any claims or changes to the policy.

  • Keep financial records in a safe location, such as your own safety deposit box. Give copies to a trusted friend.

  • Obtain copies of your credit reports.​ 

If there is a change of ownership or designated drivers for any vehicles you owned as a couple, notify your auto insurance company. Removing a former spouse or partner from the insurance policy also protects you from possible liability if he or she is involved in an accident and gets sued. Purchase a separate car insurance policy for yourself and your vehicle, so a soon-to-be ex-spouse can't cancel it.

If either of you needs to buy a new car, arrange for a new auto policy before the car is registered. If you have joint custody of a teen driver, decide which cars or cars they will drive and have them listed on the correct auto insurance policy.

COBRA and Wisconsin Continuation Rights  

Federal law states that spouses and their dependent children who are currently insured by a health plan are eligible for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation or COBRA coverage. If your former spouse has insurance through an employer that has at least 20 employees, COBRA lets you stay on that plan for up to 36 months. You can keep that plan unless you remarry or enroll in a new plan. To get COBRA coverage you need to tell the administrator of the health plan within 60 days of your divorce or legal separation.

But insurance through COBRA is expensive. Even though COBRA lets you stay on your former spouse's plan, you'll have to pay all of the monthly premiums plus administration fees without any contribution from the employer. So it's important to learn what those premiums are so you can figure out your budget after you get divorced. ​The divorce decree should state how health insurance is paid for and a plan should be legally agreed upon to make health insurance available.

Wisconsin’s continuation law applies to most group health insurance policies providing hospital or medical coverage. Standalone dental, vision, and prescription drug benefits are not required to be provided if offered as separate policies. The law applies to group policies issued to employers of any size. Additionally, employees who live outside of the state of Wisconsin during employment with an ​employer located within Wisconsin would be eligible for continuation coverage. The law does not apply to employer self-funded health plans or policies covering only specified diseases or accidental injuries.

Switching Insurance 

If you are employed and your employer offers health insurance, it will usually be less expensive to sign up with your own employer's plan. Most plans do not allow employees to join or make changes to coverage outside the once-yearly period known as open enrollment, but exceptions are made for major life changes, including divorce.

Ask your employer for details about post-divorce coverage. If coverage under that plan can be arranged, make sure you know the cost of the premiums you will have to pay.


If you lose your health insurance through divorce, you may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period  ​ through ​​. However, divorce or legal separation without losing coverage doesn’t qualify you for a Special Enrollment Period.

Divorce and separation generally result in a change of residence for either you or your spouse. You need to determine if one party will be staying in the current home or if both parties are moving. Regardless of where you will be living after the divorce, make sure to get the proper type of homeowners or renters insurance for your new house or apartment as soon as possible. 

There are laws that support victims if they've suffered domestic violence. For example intentional damage generally isn't covered if the person causing it is a member of your household. However an exemption under the policy may protect an innocent coinsured if the intentional act is the result of domestic violence and is prosecuted as such.​

When personal possessions are divided between the parties, it is important that each person let their insurance company know the value of the possessions in their home. Having an up-to-date home inventory, can help with this process and each person should take steps to create their own inventory once the belongings have been divided.

An inventory can help you purchase the correct amount of insurance and speed up the claims process when there is a loss. 

Dealing with life insurance is an important part of divorce. This is especially true for divorcing couples who have children. 

If you and your ex-spouse have life insurance policies, make sure to adjust the beneficiaries on the policies to reflect the changes you both want after the divorce is final. If you want to keep your ex-spouse as a beneficiary, the ex-spouse would need to be renamed as a beneficiary after the divorce. 

If you become a single parent, review your life insurance policy, as well as your will retirement accounts to make sure they all indicate the correct beneficiaries.

If your spouse will be paying for child support, consider requiring that they purchase a life insurance policy covering the term of the payments. You should be named as the owner and beneficiary of such a policy to prohibit your ex-spouse from changing the beneficiary name without your agreement.

Never leave a life insurance benefit directly to a minor child, instead make sure the policy names a contingent beneficiary or a trustee who will act as a beneficiary on behalf of the child. 

When considering purchasing life insurance, the amount of coverage you need depends on your financial circumstances and beneficiaries. Do your homework and make sure the amount of coverage is adequate, the policy is affordable and that any children involved are financially protected.