‘I belief nobody!’ My fiancé desires my share of our house if I die, however I’ve a disabled grownup son. Is that this the form of man I ought to marry?


I’m getting cold feet over a marriage proposal I accepted this summer and it’s all about money. Wait – it’s never really about money, it’s about what dealing with money means. We’ve been together for more than six years and bought a house together.

We’re both paying for major renovations. The deed is currently being used as a “joint tenant”, with my share of the property being transferred to a special foundation to look after my disabled adult son.

My fiancé mentioned that after marriage he believed that the right to a bereaved would automatically pass to him. I don’t think so, and the trust was written with wording that precludes any other claims from subsequent spouses or relatives (there is a nefarious father and sister and also two stepsisters who are great and are looked after separately).

It bothers me that he wants to remove this important asset from the future care of my son. Life experience has taught me not to imagine that people will take care of non-relatives in the long term.

“I’m thinking about being married again”

His counter-argument is that he doesn’t have any reasonable heirs – he has a child he didn’t find out about until late in life, and they don’t have a real relationship. So if he dies first, I would be his beneficiary. That would mean that ultimately everything would come into the care of my disabled son. I’m fine with it. It gives me peace. He’s not doing well because it doesn’t seem “fair”.

If I die first, the Trust will give him ten years of property after my death and give him ten years of my share of the mortgage payments (cash at will). It’s just that if the trustees were to sell, they were acting in the best interests of the trust and they’d only get half the equity, even if they stayed for the full 10 years and added immense value to the house.

He doesn’t think that’s fair. I believe I paid my fair share when I bequeathed the 10 year payments to him. We have had talks and he refuses to give in. After the marriage, he wants me to rewrite the trust and rename the house. I’m thinking about being married again. I fear that this will seriously affect my son’s care. Who knows if we’ll sell this house before either of us dies? That’s likely, but not really the point.

“My son will have to rely on trust”

My fiancé is wealthy and doesn’t have to inherit a dime from me to live comfortably after my death. My son will have to rely on the trust (he recently got no social security insurance so my help is all he has). My love is upset that I don’t trust him to take care of my son when I die.

Understand this: I don’t trust ANYONE! Too much can happen. If the home equity goes to my son it would be nearly impossible for him to survive his legacy (if we both die and he gets it, he could live luxuriantly without worry). He should be fine without them, but the trustees need to be careful.

The question is, do I agree to make my future spouse the beneficiary of the joint property, or do I renounce the marriage and keep in trust anything that could ruin my relationship? May I be wasting my chance to be happy with my fiancé unnecessarily, or are my worries well founded?

Cold feet

Dear cold feet,

Your fiancé has enough money to take care of himself should you die before him. Your son may or may not have enough if you passed away before your fiancé and your estate passes to your partner. Ten years of payments and the right to a survivor’s pension over the same period are fair to me.

But more importantly, your future husband has already agreed to this. Whether your relationship survives or fails – and whether he wants to change the goal posts after you get married – is up to him. One could argue, perhaps unflatteringly, that he used the wedding ring as leverage.

“Get it in writing!” That’s the message from Michael J. Greenberg, an estate planning and prior law attorney based in New York. “Unfortunately, you can’t rely on others to do the right thing,” he says, especially when you are married for a second time. “Correct planning avoids uncertainty all along the line.”

Before you say “yes,” don’t forget the right to vote. “Most states have an option that a deceased spouse cannot disinherit the surviving spouse. In New York, for example, the right to vote is $ 50,000, or one-third of a deceased’s net worth, ”says Greenberg.

“If the fiancé became her husband and she died before him, he would have the right to vote directly for a third,” Greenberg adds. Because of this, given your concerns about your adult son, marriage may not be the best option for you.

“One could argue, perhaps unflattering, that he used the wedding ring as leverage.”

If you have bought this property as a “shared tenant”, you own 50% each and, if one of you dies, you can leave your half to a third party. The other party has no survivor rights to the deed. So you are right if this is indeed the arrangement with your fiancé.

If, on the other hand, you have “joint tenancy with survivors’ rights”, you all have an equal or undivided interest in the apartment and in the event of death your share will go to the other person listed on the deed, in this case your partner. This can also be used for bank and broker accounts.

Similarly, recognized in over two dozen states, “lease by the whole” is a form of joint ownership in which each partner, who in most cases must be married, has an undivided share. If one spouse dies, the surviving spouse becomes the sole owner of the property.

Other options to explore with the trust

Greenberg has other suggestions to reconcile the task of assisting a surviving spouse in the marital home while providing access to cash. He says such arrangements usually give the surviving spouse a lifelong inheritance – the option to live in their home for the rest of their lives.

“To protect the testator’s beneficiaries, I would recommend including some language in the trust to ensure that the trustee – who shouldn’t be the fiancé – can take out a mortgage, take a line of equity, or otherwise ensure that it is liquid There are funds available to take care of the disabled child without being forced to sell, ”he says.

Another option: “You could also add a language to the estate plan to allow the surviving spouse to buy the house at appraisal sooner after the death of the first spouse and let the surviving spouse buy the remaining half of the house. “, Says Grünberg.

“People are notoriously unpredictable”

Your fiancé is free to leave his stake in your home to his estranged child or the dog and cat apartment if he so wishes. He is wealthy. You are not. It makes sense that you want to make sure your son doesn’t have to worry about his future. Your current arrangement should remain in place.

Also, I agree that people are known to be unpredictable and that it is never a good idea to leave anything to chance, as this stepson discovered after his father died. Your fiancé has already shown you that he has a tendency to break his word. How can you now trust that he will agree with your son?

The less uncertainty about your finances and your future, the better. Ultimately, you are responsible for your grown son and make sure that everything is in black and white. Stay tough. You have both signed a legal contract. He may like it or lump it together. It’s his choice.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical issues related to the coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out Moneyist’s private Facebook Group in which we look for answers to life’s thorniest money problems. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Ask your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or take part in the latest Moneyist columns.

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More from Quentin Fottrell:

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• My mother had my grandfather sign a deed of trust that left two grandchildren millions of dollars and avoided everyone else
• My brother’s soon-to-be ex-wife embezzles money from her business. How do we find hidden accounts?
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