DEAR AMY: I’ve been happily married to a wonderful man for the past four years. My husband has a teenage son from his previous marriage, but we’ve decided not to have kids of our own. Last week I was boxing up papers from our office and came upon a printout of email correspondence between my father-in-law and his financial planner. In the email, my father-in-law asked how to ensure that my stepson receives the remainder of my in-laws’ estate after my husband dies. The financial planner suggested a couple of options, one of which would be using a generation-skipping trust that my husband could draw from while he is alive, but would become my stepson’s upon my husband’s death — regardless of whether or not I am still alive. I was surprised and hurt by the email. I am younger than my husband and there is a good chance I will outlive him. While I sympathize with my father-in-law’s desire to pass something down to his grandson, it seems cruel and unnecessary to do so by cutting me out completely. Still, it’s my husband’s family’s money and not mine, and I feel guilty for even caring. But my husband has been relying on the assumption that he will get an inheritance during his retirement, and while I have a small IRA of my own, I am genuinely scared for my financial future. This situation does not seem good for my marriage. Am I wrong to be upset? Should I ask my husband to talk to his parents about it? I would like to think they did not intend to cut me out of their will.
DEAR ANONYMOUS: I understand your father-in-law’s intentions. If your husband dies before you, you will presumably inherit the family home and whatever other assets might be left from your husband’s savings. Many state laws ensure that a spouse will inherit a guaranteed proportion of the spouse’s estate.
If your father-in-law dies and leaves everything to your husband, and then your husband dies and leaves everything to you, and you live for another 30 years using the income you have inherited from both men, your stepson might not receive any inheritance from either his grandfather or his father.
The way I interpret this instruction, your husband doesn’t have to worry about trying to leave something for his son (in addition to you), because his son will already be receiving an inheritance.
You should show this email to your husband and use this as a reason to start your estate planning now. Don’t blame the older gentleman for wanting to provide for his grandson; this money could be used for the young man’s education and would save his father (and you) from that expense.
DEAR AMY: Earlier this year, my husband of 15 years told me he was no longer in love with me. He said he wanted to be roommates and focus on our friendship and the well-being of our children (11 and 13). He is currently unemployed, and even if he were working, there is no way we could afford to maintain two households. I am over the initial shock and hurt. Am I crazy to consider this living arrangement?
Married in Name Only
DEAR MARRIED: No, you’re not crazy. What you are describing (two adults who live as roommates and are devoted to their children) sounds like many marriages, to me. This tough economy has compelled divorcing couples to continue to cohabit.
Do not kid yourselves, however. Even if this split is amicable, it could affect your children — now or later. It would be wise to use some of the money you are saving cohabiting to commit to mediation and counseling. Removing the pressure to be married according to any particular model might actually be good for your relationship.
DEAR AMY: I’m responding to the letter from “Worried Worker.” Lots of people have to work with jerks, but that’s life. It’s only illegal if it’s discrimination because you’re a woman, or because of your race, etc. Not all bad behavior is worthy of a lawsuit, and while that boss sounds horrible it should be a learning experience. My dad always told me, “Don’t leave a job because of someone, because people come and go.” I have found that to be true. Just because people are hostile does not make it a hostile work environment in the eyes of the law.
DEAR SANDRA: You are right. However, “Worried” would learn if this behavior was actionable by researching her legal rights.