Sorting through my dad's financial mess (long)
You guys asked about estate planning? My dad is 72 and doesn't have it together *now*. I'm trying to help him, and I know he needs legal advice, and we are getting it. But any extra help or ideas would be fantastic.
In a nutshell: He had a 17-year relationship. They were married in all ways but the official one. (She didn't want to remarry because she was getting some sort of benefits from her ex I think.) I thought they were a good match, since my dad is a good guy but can be difficult and she seemed to have the right personality. But evidently she has tired of him and wants to be alone. Or so she says.
Which is hearbreaking, but the REAL problem is that "they" own two houses, one in FL and one in NC, but both of them are IN HER NAME. She no longer wants to work so has no income, and is not 65 yet. They are both architects. He helped her after her divorce, put her through architecture school, and then added her to his practice. They were a very good team. They bought property in the NC mountains and built a main house and studio designed specifically for them. They remodeled a house here in Florida. Both places are lovely and reflect each of their personalities in a unique way.
Why, you ask, are both of these houses in her name? Good question. The short answer is that my dad has always had a tough time managing his finances. When I was a teenager the house we lived in was foreclosed on, and my parents divorced. When he hooked up with this girlfriend a year or two later, she carried the bank account. When they bought the land in NC with cash 12 years ago, he put it in her name because he said he wanted her to build assets (she had nothing after her divorce either).
He never tried to get either of the mortgages, just let her do it. I guess he assumed he was barred for life or something like that. I can assure you he never thought she would leave him. I didn't either. Yes, he is at fault for not seeing that this could happen, but what would the courts say?
She is at the house in NC and he is in FL. Yesterday he got a letter from her, making the breakup official. But she also said she wants to sell the FL house, pay off both mortgages, and then give him a "percentage" of the remainder. "To be fair," she said. I guess she thinks he can live in an apartment.
I am seething, because the only fair way to divide things would be to cut them in half. He has supported her with his income and his practice all these years. They each had nothing and they built it TOGETHER. But she is acting like a spoiled child, and frankly I am surprised. She apparently wants to no longer work, own the house up there free and clear and toss him out the window. He is not an easy person but he doesn't cheat, doesn't drink, doesn't abuse. He does not deserve this at all.
I told him that before he makes a move, the first thing he must do is find out from attorneys in both states whether there is legal precedent and what the likely result would be if he were to sue for his half of the properties. I told him he may have to suck it up, help her pay her expenses while she goes through some rough patches in exchange for getting her to quitclaim half of each property to him. Then I could help him get a mortgage on the house down here if need be. It's not a huge amount of money and DH and I have agreed to step in if necessary.
He wants to go in like a bull in a china shop and threaten, place liens on the homes (which he can do as an architect). I told him to slow down and handle it delicately.
Sorry this is so long - but if any of you have any idea what might work or help, I thought I would throw it out here. You guys are so supportive, and I appreciate it in advance!