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My second husband, 86, and I have 12 kids between us. He wants me to leave him everything — and will pass on the inheritance to my 5 children

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My second husband, previously divorced, is 86 years old and has been putting off setting up a trust for 10 years. We have 12 children between the two of us, and he wants to leave all of his assets to me, and then everything to his seven children after I die.

The problem is, he wants to leave the house to his children, but says if I outlive him I can live in it or rent somewhere if I wish to move. I would have to spend a large amount of money on rent with the way costs keep going up.

Under those circumstances, there is also a possibility that I would need to leave this area because I couldn’t maintain the property, or continue to drive long distances for medical appointments and shopping.


‘All of his children have their own very huge, beautiful homes and plenty of money.’

Is there some way for a trust to be set up for me to live in the house and, if I choose or to sell the home if I had to, buy another place more convenient to live in, and then leave that place to his children? Also, could his seven children force me to move out if I were still able to live in the home?

All of his children have their own very huge, beautiful homes and plenty of money. I’m not sure they’d appreciate having to sell this home or maintain it, and pay taxes with no one living in it. If I did sell the home, I would be sure to reinvest the sale amount into another place and the children wouldn’t lose any money.

I have put money into this home over the 28 years that I’ve lived here, but that fact seems to escape my husband.

The other issue: I have my own separate retirement; this is money he expects I will leave to him if I pass before him. He probably won’t need any of it to live on, but he intends to leave whatever is left of my investments to my children when he dies.

Currently, some of my accounts are set up with my husband as the main beneficiary and my children secondary. Other accounts name my husband and children as equal beneficiaries. I trust my husband to handle my investments and to help my children if they need it, but if everything goes to him I’m not sure that my children will ever receive any money after his death.

Wife and Mother

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

Dear Wife and Mother,

Not making a trust and leaving your savings to your husband means your five children will rely on the kindness of your husband should you predecease him, while you will rely on the kindness of your husband’s children should he predecease you. Whose kindness is your husband relying on? It seems to be that all the trust is going one way in this estate non-plan. Your letter concerns trust and a trust, or lack thereof. You trust your husband, but do you really? And does he trust you?

Your husband could give you a life estate in the home, but moving would present complications. Living in the house for the remainder of your life, assuming the mortgage is fully paid off, would be a good outcome, and it’s not always possible to have every option at your disposal. If your husband purchased this home prior to your marriage, and you have contributed in some way to the improvements of the home, it may have transferred from separate to community property.


‘This seems like a card game where you are peering over your respective hands, with neither of you calling the other’s bluff.’


— The Moneyist

Trusts can dictate the timing of asset distribution, as well as provide heirs with an income in a wide range of eventualities.

“Trusts can include custom tailored provisions that will ensure an individual’s dispositive intentions are clearly articulated and enforced, including instructions given to a trustee, or discretion given to a trustee if desired,” says Eva Victor, senior vice president and director of wealth planning at Girard in King of Prussia, Pa. “Trusts are also inherently flexible tools.”

Your husband, meanwhile, is saying, “Put your trust in me instead of in a trust.” Likewise, your proposal to sell his home, assuming it is a separate property owned by your husband, asks your husband’s kids to trust you. This seems like a card game where you are peering over your respective hands, with neither of you calling the other’s bluff. Whatever it is, it is not estate planning. You trust your husband to handle your investments, you write, yet you don’t believe he will do right by your kids.

Hire a mediator — an estate lawyer and/or financial planner — to sort through your retirement accounts and assets. The final sentence in your letter tells you exactly what you need to do.

The Moneyist: I’m a farmer in my late 30s, live a frugal lifestyle, and my son has a disability. Should I pay extra on my mortgage — or save for retirement?

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My parents made my sister executor of their $4 million estate, and joint owner of their bank accounts. Should I be worried?

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Dear Quentin,

I just found out that my parents (who are in their mid 80s) have named my sister as their successor trustee, and executor of their estate and wills. They have also put her name on all their financial accounts “in case something happens to us.”

I have no reason to suspect my sister of any nefarious motives, but having her name as joint owner on their accounts seems potentially problematic to me in case of their passing. What are the pros and cons of this arrangement?

Their estate is probably worth about $4 million. We have five other siblings who are currently unaware of this arrangement. Can you provide any resources or articles I could show my parents regarding better ways to accomplish their goal of having someone in charge of their finances?

Concerned Son

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

Dear Son,

People often don’t do anything nefarious, until they have the opportunity to do so and/or run into financial difficulty of their own. That may not be the case with your sister, of course, but your parents should absolutely know the meaning of making one of their children a co-owner on their bank accounts, if their intention is to merely have your sister assist with bills.

Is she a co-owner of this account, or is she a co-signer? If it’s the former, your sister is a joint owner and can spend the money as she wishes. She would likely be liable for debts on that account after your parents’ death. If it’s the latter, your sister has the right to sign checks on your parents’ behalf. To complicate matters, not all banks have the same definitions for “co-owner” and “co-signer.”

Many people don’t understand the difference between being a co-signer and a co-owner. There are many cases of children listed as co-owners (rather than authorized signers) on those accounts who have emptied their parents’ bank account before and after they died. Sometimes, they did not keep enough (or any) receipts, and have been wrongly accused of emptying a parent’s account.


Many people don’t understand the difference between being a co-signer and a co-owner.

In the letters I have received on this issue,the damage was often already done, typically caused by a combination of the three “Gs” — grief, gripes and greed — when long-simmering sibling rivalries boil over. People do things that they may not otherwise do if their parents were there to witness it. You are correct to ensure your parents’ action is in accordance with their wishes.

There are other ”what ifs”: What if your sister dies first? The account would likely become part of her estate too, with a share to be distributed to her children, which could then involve paying a state inheritance tax. Your parents’ accounts could also be “paid on death” or “transferred on death,” avoiding the public and often time-consuming probate process. Read more here.

The Moneyist: ‘I cut his hair because he won’t pay for a haircut’: My multimillionaire husband is 90. I’ve looked after him for 41 years, but he won’t help my son

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My husband doesn’t get along with my son. I brought most of the wealth into our marriage. How do I split my estate?

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Dear Quentin,

How do couples typically handle their estates in a second marriage? My husband and I have been married for seven years, and it is the second marriage for both of us. I have one adult child from my previous marriage; he has no children.

I brought the majority of our wealth to our marriage, including almost $1 million in my 401(k) and a nice home that is almost paid off; otherwise, we have no debt. My husband and I bought a second home together. We work hard to fund our new 401(k)s, and own a successful business together.

I am turning 65 this year, so estate planning is long overdue. My husband is five years younger than me, and we are both in very good health. We have two issues facing us: I see our retirement as living very comfortably on the monthly income generated by our 401(k)s, pension, Social Security, etc., and leaving whatever may be left to my son.


‘The other issue is that my husband no longer gets along with my dear son at all, and feels no obligation to get along with him.’

I am not interested in scrimping, but I want to be able to have enough money to last us until age 90 (or beyond) by not touching the principal. My husband is more interested in dipping deep into our savings, and living it up in retirement while we are young enough to enjoy it.

The other issue is that my husband no longer gets along with my dear son at all, and feels no obligation to get along with him, to the point that neither one wants anything to do with the other. As far as he is concerned, my son doesn’t meet his expectations, and so deserves nothing from me and certainly nothing from him.

I want my estate planning to be fair to both my new husband and my son. How do people typically handle this type of quandary? I think that I need to create some type of trust to pass on my share of our estate to my son. My pre-marriage assets involved my son as I pursued my graduate degree through night school and worked long hours throughout his childhood.

Second Wife

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

Dear Second Wife,

Don’t allow your husband’s feelings toward your son to influence your estate planning.

Your relationships with your husband and your son and your own plans for retirement are all fair game when making decisions about your estate, but your husband and son’s fractured relationship is their business, not yours. You worked hard for this money, and your son is your legal heir. Any effort by your husband to spend all of your savings and fritter away any inheritance that you intended to leave to your son should be resisted at all costs.

You have worked too hard your entire life to compromise your plans for a comfortable retirement where you have money set aside for long-term medical care insurance, unforeseen emergencies and/or your son. If you jointly own your home, you can leave your half to your son in your will, and specify it can only be sold after your husband passes away.

If you own the home, you can give your husband a life estate. Your son would pay capital-gains tax on the value of your home when he sells it, and not when you bought it. You could also make your son the beneficiary on your life-insurance policy, and/or gift him a certain amount of money per year to see how he manages and spends that money.

Figure out what is fair to yourself first before moving on to what is fair to your husband and your son. It’s OK to put your needs first. I caution against your dipping into savings at a rate that is beyond your own risk tolerance.

Ultimately, you are entitled to leave all other separate property to your son when you die — and, along with a financial adviser, set up a trust with that in mind for you, your husband and your son. Not necessarily in that order.

The Moneyist: ‘I cut his hair because he won’t pay for a haircut’: My multimillionaire husband is 90. I’ve looked after him for 41 years, but he won’t help my son

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