Your opinion on how to divide estate in will

mom23step23March 24, 2009

Just asking for several people to post their opinion on this subject.

My DH and I married 3 years ago. We each have contributed equal amounts of money to the marriage in the past 3 years. DH brought with him an airplane(not an expensive one, alot of new cars would be priced higher), his retirement fund, a few college loans for his kids, a beater car and personal belongings. I brought my home (which I paid off 1 year after we married), my new car, my retirement fund, 1 college loan for my son, and my personal belongings. We both contribute about the same amount financially to the marriage (he works more hours than I do, and makes more, but has to pay alimony).

I've heard it said that whatever is brought into the marriage should stay in the family of the person who brought it into the marriage. What I mean is, for example, if DH dies, his retirement fund, belongings, and airplane (and college loans) go to his 3 kids divided equally. If I die, my house, retirement fund, (and college loan) and belongings go to my 3 kids to be divided equally.

I've also heard it said that the above is wrong, everything should go to the remaining spouse. Then when that remaining spouse dies, everything should be divided up between all 6 children equally.

Another option I've heard is that for example if I would die, the house would go to my 3 children, with a clause that my DH would be able to live in the house as long as he needs it (or until his death). My Aunt had everything of hers set up this way. She remarried late in life to a man who was wonderful to her, they had 15 years of marriage. She died about 12 years ago, he is in his late 90's and still living in her house, but when he passes, it goes back to the children of my Aunt.

What do some of you have set up? Very curious. We don't have a will because we cannot decide what is fair. We've talked to our financial planner, and he really tells us that we have to decide. I'm not planning on dying anytime soon, but then nobody really does. Not trying to be morbid, just wonder what others in this boat would do.

Since his children have little regard for me, I would turn over in my grave to think that my house would be sold and a portion given to them. They did not grow up in this house, it is not home to them. My 3 kids were all raised from birth in this house. If anything happened to me, my husband doesn't have a house, and I think it should be his as long as he needs it.

And what about life insurance policies and retirement funds? If something happened to me, I think I might in later years need at least some of his retirement money to live on, and the same would go for him if I died. The idea is that the retirement fund is set up for OUR retirement, not as something to pass on to the kids. We are planning on enjoying retirement together, if one prematurely dies, it doesn't seem fair that it should go to the kids. But then it doesn't seem fair to leave the kids completely out either.

My DH paid for college for his kids, and this was a good financial start in their adult life. This was at least $40000 for each kids. None of my kids wanted to go to college (except DS23 went for 1 year). I feel that at an appropriate time, I would like to do something financially for them (like maybe help out with a downpayment on a house), since I didn't have the burden of college for them.

I don't want to give them cash in exchange for college. But I don't feel that it is alright to help the ones who go to college, and the ones who don't go to college get nothing. When I've talked to my older 2 kids about this, they thank me for my thoughts, and tell me that they're proud to be able to make it on their own, and aren't looking for handouts. They are not greedy. I asked them if DH and I were killed in a car accident and the house was sold and divided 6 ways how they would feel about it. They said they would feel that was unfair, because my DH didn't pay for the house, and it was the house they were raised in.

My father died 5 years ago and left my 75 year old mother with $500,000. I haven't seen any of it, not saying that I should, but my Dad told me that he was leaving a 40 acre parcel of land to me. My Mother doesn't know that he told me this before he died. Oh well, I'm not counting on anything. My Mom will live another 15 years and will need it to live on herself.

On more thought. It gets complicated. My DH is quite a handyman, and is always doing upkeep and improvements on our house. I do them with him, I do alot my self to upgrade our house. He feels like it isn't fair to him for him to live here and maintain the house for years, then if I die, it goes to the kids, and he reaps no rewards for his efforts. In some ways, one could look at it like, he hadn't married me, that he would be either paying rent or a mortgage himself for these past 3 years. That should be worth something. He hasn't had to worry about it since he moved in here.

Your thoughts please.

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There is no 'one size fits all' answer. It would depend on each situation, length of marriage, and situation at the time. If you are both working when you get married or if both are retired or one is working and the other retired, if one or both are disabled. It IS complicated and what works for one may not work for another in the same situation.

It's also my opinion that kids are 'entitled' to nothing. That isn't to say they should get nothing, they just are not "entitled". They should get what their parent chooses to give or leave them. Likewise, a spouse (first or subsequent) is not necessarily 'entitled' either, like I said it depends on the situation. A spouse that stays in a bad marriage for a long time may feel they have paid their dues and are more deserving... the other spouse may feel the opposite. A spouse in a happier marriage, whether long or short term may want the person that made them happy to be taken care of when they are gone.

The only strong beliefs I have is that when one spouse inherits from their parents, the inheritance is for them to do with as they please and leave it to whom they want. And when both parties contribute to the home, it belongs to both of them. It doesn't necessarily matter who 'bought' it (unless it's nearly paid for by one spouse prior to the marriage).

In my opinion, it is inappropriate to ask kids 'what if?' questions because how can a child of any age know what they will feel if they were to lose a parent suddenly? and are you going to base your will on what your kids think they might feel? I'm 40 and I don't know what I will feel or think when I lose my parents. My dad may remarry and leave it all to a new wife and I guess I might think it's wrong to leave everything you've worked for your entire life to someone you've only known a few years, but it's not my choice to make, it's his. I can't imagine asking my kids what they think is fair when I die... that would only feed any feelings of entitlement they might have. My dad has never asked me what I think should happen as far as his belongings. The only time I have ever discussed what would happen upon his death is when his wife was still alive & we discussed who would care for her and what would happen with that.

It's no wonder kids today feel entitled to everything...

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 1:41PM
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How a will is divided strictly depends on how the person writting wants it to be divided.

Kids imput shouldn't matter. If the person wants to leave to the National Association of Marlon Brando Look Alikes that's his/her business. No one is intitled to inheritance.

The spouse will more than likely get most of it in 99.9% of the cases simply because there is shared expenses left to be paid. Just because someone dies doesn't mean bills dissapear. In fact, it usually works quit the opposite. There are MORE bills following the death of a spouse and less income. It only stands to reason that most married couples would leave the vast majority, if not all, of their assets to the living spouse for this reason.

There's a huge debate on whether second spouses should recieve inheritance. The answer is obvious. Just because they weren't first doesn't mean their spouse is any less deceased and the bills no less need to be paid. First or second means squat.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 2:48PM
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Dear Ima, There are plenty of SMs, not saying you, who think they are entitled to everything. By Dad not doing anything --everything goes to SM and her kids.

I agree, one size doesnt fit all. But also, if Dad doesnt do anything, chances are SM outlives Dad and law gives everything to her. Thank god my X made very specific will, and had SO sign pre-cohabitiaton.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 2:55PM
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Just so I understand, if 80 year rich old guy married sweet young eye candy, and they are married for 6 months, you think she should get it all? Thank g*d my X doesnt.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 3:09PM
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My DH and I both have life insurance well more than enough to pay any final expenses,and we have excellent health insurance. I realize that the will is very different in each case, which is why I listed some of the highlights of our specific case. I only owed a year on my mortgage when we married, and I made the payments on it during the year. My kids don't feel entitled to my house, but I have told them that I would want to pass it on to them if anything would happen to DH and I. That is quite a different thing that them just assuming that it is theirs.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 3:12PM
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I didn't say she should KKNY. Read my post. I said in MOST cases there is shared bills that still need to be paid so the spouse winds up getting a large portion of the inheritence.

If the couple has been married a long time this is even more true. For example, if fifty years from now J passed away, I would get what ever tiny bit of money he had because we would obviously have alot of shared bills. It doesn't matter that I'm his second wife and he has kids with his first. It wouldn't change the situation I was left in. I would NEED that financial help.

How much of it is you are glad your children are getting all of you Ex's money vs. you're glad his new wife isn't? I'm just curious. My guess is it's at least an equal draw.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 3:17PM
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It is not so much a debate on spouse 1 v. spouse 2, at least in my opinion, but how to balance dads kids from fist marriage. It may not be the case in your situation, but absent steps by dad, his kids may end up with nothing, and everything goes to SMs kids. Its all well and good to say its up to parent, but it shouldnt just be up to the second to die.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 3:26PM
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I didn't argue that it should be up to the second to die. It should be discussed between the living spouses before it comes to that. But the EX spouses and the kid's have no say. If it is decided it will be split amongst the kids that's fine and dandy but it is gross for kids (and the Ex's)to EXPECT it.

They are setting themselves up to be dissapointed and pissed off because like I said, 99.9% of the time, it's gonna go to the surviving spouse.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 3:35PM
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My Xs will leaves most of his very large estate to D. He has shown it to her. I am not certain where you get your statistics from. Most financial planners for people my age suggest that people deal with this issue pre marriage.

I think open disclosure is important.

If its gross for kids to expect it, then its gross for SM or SO to expect anything.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 3:42PM
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I didn't state statistics per se but I think most people even ASSUME the spouse gets left with any left over money int he case of a spouse passingg way. That's how our families have always done it.

It wasn't untill the second parent died that the kids got anything. That's how it went down with mine and J's grand parents deaths. I think that's pretty common.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 3:45PM
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"If its gross for kids to expect it, then its gross for SM or SO to expect anything."

No more gross for a first wife to expect anything. And totally no more gross than an EX wife expecting any thing....even in the kids favor.

No one said anything about expecting anything any way. I just said in most cases it seems to be the trend for the spuse of the deceased to get inheritence.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 3:49PM
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Try to look at it like this. The Ex wife "Get's hers" during the divorce. You can bet the evil Ex will get all she put in financially from her Ex when the marriage craps out. She has her day in court.

Now enter the new spouse who loves the man and helps pay on the house, helps pay for the utilities, helps pay on the car, pays up keep on the house, helps pay his child support or helps buy things for his kids (in some cases not all), helps pay for his lawyer evry time the Ex starts acting the fool with visitation etc., helps pay the Dr. Bills when the man falls ill or gets injured, pays for the funeral.

Why should this woman not deserve some financial support when she is the one left holding the bag so to speak. Where were the kids when dad was sick? Did the kids pay for the funeral...probably not. Did the kids pay for the fence that was put up around the yard? Did the kids cut back on weekly costs for thirteen years to be able to afford that boat? Hell no. Did the kids contribute anything at all financially to their fathers existence once they moved out and got their own lives? In most cases this is NO NO NO. So what's up with the expecting a hand out when daddy kicks the bucket?

Should the second wife have to sell the boat and house if she put her income into it in any way. HELL NO. It would be no different than stealing if the kids swooped in like vultures expecting her to hand over those things. If the two spouses aquired things TOGETHER it should be left to the living spouse. That's how the divorce worked with the first wife and you'd best be believing she got her fair share back out of it!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 3:58PM
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I think it works just fine when the two bioparents leave everything to each other. I think it gets more complicated when SM has kids and Dad has kids. As to trend, I have to disagree with you -- maybe trend with younger parents and minimal assets, I do not think it is the trend with older parents and more substantial assets. It certainly is not what most financial planners advise.

I negotiated with X for my Ds stake -- its no more gross than any other part of divorce settlment.

The problem as I see it, it is easy for SM to "be above it all" and say, oh lets not talk about, knowing full well, law in absense of planning in most states she would get all.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 4:04PM
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Yes. That's my plan. You got me. I tell J we won't talk about it so I'll get all of his money while the girls starve in the streets. Seriously.

If we have bills left unpaid in the event of J's death I will get any money he has to help pay them. All three of the girls will be on their own and more than likely married with two incomes. They won't need it but I will.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 4:11PM
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Doodle, you're generalizing. As I said one size doesnt fit all. Some SMs contribute financially and some dont. Most children don't contribute to parents wealth -- that doesnt mean they should be disinherited.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 4:13PM
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Like Ima said, it depends on each situation. In ours everything pretty much levels out. When we married 24 years ago I had some money, he didn't but he made more than I did. We each had equity in our homes. We have 3 grown children each. Our will leaves everything to each other, then to be split 6 ways (except for 2 houses bought with my inheritance money that will go to my children) when we're both gone. Neither of us have any desire to leave the step children out and none of them are greedy so this works for us. Either of us may need what we have in our later years so we aren't interested in leaving our part to the children before we're both gone.

In your case with you having the house that only you paid for might be a different situation. If it were me I wouldn't want it to go to the step children since it appears they are rather greedy so only you can decide what you think is right. Would you feel comfortable leaving it to your DH with him agreeing to will it to your children if you predecease him?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 4:16PM
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Inheritances are for the rich. Most of us arn't rich. Most of us will not have our houses paid for when our spouses die. Most of us will not have money stacked up in our savings to cover medical and death costs. Most of us won't even have a paid for vehicle when our spuses pass away. Most of us will die struggling.

I don't think it's a generalization to say the spouse will need it more than the children. I think that in a HUGE majority of the cases it is fact. The economy sucks. For us down in the trenches it's a reality that the kids won't get much when the parents die so they had better get a job. On an even more depressing note, even jobs arn't guaranteed.

Inheritance is a forieghn word for alot of todays families.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 4:21PM
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Mom 23, I referred to you getting a will because when you remarked a six way split, that it would be unfair, I think that would be true.We are in a very similar situation it sounds. I recommend a life estate for your husband(house going to your children, he stays until he passes, should you predecease him)I m presuming in your DH s case his EX got the marital home, which I m sure he contributed to substantially, his children will inherit that from their mother,but it is in fact a contribution from him also.... His Insurance, possibly 50% to you, 50% split among the children from his marriage, your insurance likewise..Retirement, your alone..Personal property, yours alone...DH and I had no problem with this set up, maybe something similar would work in your situation...

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 5:48PM
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If you want to avoid the problem with the house... sell your house. Then you and your husband can purchase a house together with joint funds. Then he won't be homeless if you go first. Or since your house is paid off, you don't really need to sell it, rent it out and use the income to buy a house with your husband so it's yours and his jointly.

It all comes down to trust and integrity doesn't it? You have to trust your kids won't throw him out and leave him to fend for himself at 60 or 70 or 80. You have to trust him to leave it to your kids instead of finding a new wife and leaving it to her or her kids.

As far as I'm concerned, everyone should be taking care of themselves.. you, your husband and all the kids. Nobody should expect or rely on someone else. Personally, I think the whole topic is designed to incite a riot and while GW was getting a little boring... this isn't that exciting a topic. There are too many options and every situation is different.

kkny: Why doesn't it surprise me that you disappear until a subject like this comes up? ha ha ha. You asked: "Just so I understand, if 80 year rich old guy married sweet young eye candy, and they are married for 6 months, you think she should get it all?"

The answer: YES!!! If that's what HE wants to do with HIS money... ABSOLUTELY!!! Eye candy or not, it's HIS money. Would I like it? Probably not if I was his daughter, but like I've said, my dad has worked his ass off for 50 years and if he wants to give it to a bimbo that gives him joy in his last days... hats off to him.. it's HIS money!!!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 5:55PM
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IMA, Dont think Mom 23 is trying to incite a riot, I think she s newer and missed the free for all WILL discusions LOL..And also agree Ima, Eye candy has value too(as in your uncles joy)...Nobodys looking for old ugly women to blow their hard earned fortune on:)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 6:10PM
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I wasn't implying that mom23 was trying to incite a riot. I am saying the topic of inheritances and wills is very controversial and a topic that is designed to get heated.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 6:23PM
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When my mom married my stepfather, she sold her house and moved into his. They got a postnuptual agreement. Basically, the money from her house is in an account that will be divided between my brother, my sister, and me. If he dies before her, she will continue to live in their house until she dies. When she dies, the house will be sold and the proceeds divided between his children. I'm not sure how their day to day financials go. I know she has a settlement still from when she divorced my father, and I think it will be divided between my brother and sister and me if there is anything left when she dies.

As far as my father goes, his wife gets half of their house. Any property he had before their marriage will be divided between my brother, sister and me. Everything else, my stepmother gets half and the rest is divided between the three of us.

I'm not entitled to anything that isn't my parents'. I don't want things that don't belong to me. But I'd hate to see my mom's stuff and money go to my stepsisters, especially if it is what she got when she divorced my dad. I'd be upset if they got money my father earned. But as far as my stepfather's assets, I don't feel I'm entitled to a dime.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 9:08PM
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There are too many options and everyones situation is different........While that is very true, I would have welcomed the chance to hear what other woman did about their finances and wills before I went to see an attorney...I find the topic informative still....

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 9:04AM
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I'll go with what doodle says. Most people do not worry about inheritance because there is not nothing to leave to anyone. Most people are barely making it.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 11:32AM
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dotz, thanks for your comments. Please go back and read the original post on this thread. My DH lost his house with the divorce, it was sold. His ex lives in an apartment. Also, DHs three kids have completely cut their BM out of their lives. They all have cell phones (with unlisted numbers) and she does not know where to contact them, they want it this way. She was very abusive to them. I doubt that their BM would leave them anything. Whether or not their BM leaves them anything in her will should have absolutely no significance in how my estate is divided. For that matter, my kids will be left in their BDs will too, again that is of no significance in making decisions about my estate. I feel that DH gave them all a good start in life by paying for 4 years of college for them. That alone is at least $40,000. I would like to hear more opinions from you after you read my original post again. I seriously don't know how to set up a will, and want advice. I want to be fair. I want something that we all can live with.

Imamommy, as far as selling this house to avoid problems, well it would avoid some problems, and create some new problems.

1) I am 50 years old, and have paid a mortgage for 28 years, and am not interested in going there again!

2) My husband is in engineering, and those jobs are very uncertain in this economy. For the 3 years that we've been married, he has been unemployed for 18 months of it! He has had 4 different jobs during our 3 year marriage. Not a good time to take out a mortgage if you don't have to.

3) He owes 38% of his income for the rest of his life to his exwife. Even when he retires, he still has to pay 38%. Another good reason to not take out a loan.

4) He is still paying college loans for his DDs.

5) This house is valued at $210,000. If I sold it and bought another house, then the new house would still be bought with my $210,000. So how does this translate to now it is "our" house. It would be a new building in a new location, but bought with the cash from the sale of the home I paid for for 28 years.

6) If there was a new house, then for sure his kids would expect to have an equal share in the will. They would somehow forget that I paid for the new house too. Why should we (who already own a house) be expected to start over with a new mortgage just to avoid arguments with the DHs kids.

7)My husband is 53, and we are looking forward to retirement in the next 10-12 years, we probably wouldn't have a new home paid for unless I used the money from the sale of this home. Having a mortgage extend into retirement years, would really make our day to day financial picture a struggle.

8) I only want this house left to my kids after DH and I are done with it. If I live to 90 years old, they won't get any inheritance until then. My DH is my first priority. The kids are young and can fend for themselves. And my kids pride themselves on the fact that they are making it on their own. They do not ask for handouts.

9) I have gorgeous English Cottage gardens surrounding my entire property. I have worked years on them to get them the way I want them. This is my hobby. I don't think I should be expected to give up my hobby because there someday might be arguments over how to divide my estate. It took years to develop these gardens. I would start over if it was something that DH and I wanted to do, or we had to move, etc. But not start over to avoid arguments with DHs kids. My husband owns an airplane, which he brought to the marriage. I wouldn't ask him to stop flying because we couldn't decide how to divide the cash from the sale of his airplane if he passed.

10)We have a nice house that we both like. We have redecorated, and knocked out a wall to create a master bedroom suite that we both really like, it has a balcony overlooking the gardens. We have a one acre parcel. Our backyard is completely private, well, not completely. If you take a helicopter and fly over, then you can see the backyard, but otherwise our backyard is totally private. We have a hot tub out in the gardens, and we enjoy going out there naked :-). Now where can you buy another house with that!

Thank you all for your comments. They are helping me quite a bit in formulating in my mind something that I can work with when I set up a will.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 12:10PM
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I agree that unfortunately most people don't have the means to leave much any inheritance behind, and inheritances are a luxury for anyone who gets one. It's when people DO ave extra means where it gets tricky... who will share in the bounty and in what proportions?

A main preliminary thing for you to understand is that you're not talking about writing "a will" for you and your husband together. Every individual gets their own will. That's an important distinction that has significant effects on these decisions. Essentially it means that you can do whatever you want with your stuff, and your husband can do whatever he wants with his stuff. Also, wills can be rewritten at any time, in full confidentiality. Wills exist to be true representations of what each individual wants to have happen with their own stuff.

About your house: my opinion ---and I say this as a stepchild--- is that as long as the home the step-parent resides in is not the same home that the step-kids grew up in with their other bio-parent before divorce or death broke up the previous marriage, it seems to me straightforward that the step-parent should inherit house... ESPECIALLY if it was originally their own house!!! That seems to me to go without saying, and therefore it's my opinion that you need not justify to yourself why you want to keep YOUR HOUSE in your own biological family. Believe it or not, when my Dad told me he wanted to split the house he lived in with my SM (not my childhood home), I told him I thought it would make more sense and be more clear-cut if my SM inherited the whole house.

But no, my reasons were not all 100% altruistic. I didn't want the co-liability and the hassle, and I didn't want her making decisions on home expenditures that I would then be partially responsible for ponying up for. Since my Dad's house was his biggest asset and since I am an adult, I took the risk that me saying that to him would effectively cut me out of a huge chunk of what he'd planned to give me. In my case it worked out, though, because he decided on his own to take my suggestion and then adjust the ratios of what was left so that I got a bit more of other assets since I was no longer to get any share of his house. He very well could have decided not to do that...

Bear in mind, too, that in most states the law holds that an inherited house does not come free and clear of a mortgage. Therefore, if you want it to pass free and clear, you have to VERY CLEARLY STATE this desire in your will. If not, your kids will be solely responsible for paying the mortgage, so if they cannot do this on their own, you should at least provide them with other monetary means of helping them pay it or they may have to sell it.

As for how to benefit DH's kids, that's up to DH and his will. You need not put them in your will at all, and most step-parents frankly don't (or at least not after spouse, the step-kids' bio-parent, dies). Which is all the more reason that DH needs to provide for them himself if he wants to ensure they get something. He may decide to leave them his insurance, since he no longer owns his own house or anything else of much value, and since you wish to leave your house to your kids. I don't think any step-parent is obligated to provide anything for step-kids, just that they conversely should not prevent their spouses from doing so for their own kids if they choose.

In your case, since you are the person in the marriage with more assets, it may simply have to be that your bio-kids end up with more than your step-kids, simply because you personally created more wealth to give them than DH did to give his own. It may end up being uneven, but it couldn't be said to be unfair. DH and his kids would really have no right to be upset if you did not leave them any part of your house, insurance or any other soley-owned asset of yours, but I could see where they could have some issues with you suggesting DH shouldn't find a way to leave his kids something with what he does have-- namely his insurance. Remember, too, that as his spouse, in the event of his death, you also get his social security, most likely whatever cash he has, his pension and you can also "elect" against his will for a "spousal share", none of which are available to his kids. So with that in mind, and under the premise that you've brought so much more to the table than DH has and as you've said there's plenty of money to go around, then you really wouldn't "need" his insurance payout anyway...

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 1:00PM
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Forgot about the airplane.... depending on what its resale value is, and if it's an amount he feels sizeable enough, he may decide to leave it to his kids in lieu of insurance money. But my guess would be that he would still want to bequeath something else to them, unless its worth is comparable to (or anywhere near) the amount that would come from a house or an insurance policy. The point being that he'd likely want to be approximately as generous with his own kids as you would like to be with yours, to the extent he is able.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 1:14PM
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Mom23, Sorry, missed the part about SKs and BMs estrangement and DH sold the marital home, assumption on my part..In my DHs case , ex got house free and clear, and since he knows he paid for it, and his DSS will be inheriting it,it made decisions easier for him with his estate planning, I think...In total agreement about birthchilds inheritance from the other parent having no bearing on how you should sort out your affairs.But I have 2 SSs, one is very much like your SKs, nothing would ever be fair enough for him, unless I was pitched into the street naked wearing only my Chanel nailpolish

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 2:23PM
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I think I am misunderstanding what you posted. You said that the step-parent (which I assume to be my DH) should inherit the house if I die. If this happens, then the courts will award my estate to his kids when he dies. Please clarify what you mean.

Wisconsin is a joint marital property state. My name is on my house alone. Yet right now the courts say that we are joint owners. I am also joint owner of college loans that he has, etc.

Also, my house is completely paid. I paid it off 2 years ago (one year into our marriage).

How do you feel that paying for 4 years of college factors into this equation? My kids didn't get the benifit of college money from me (except my DS23 who only went 1 year). We encouraged them all to go, and told them we would pay, but they're not college bound. How many of you out there feel that it is the parents responsibility to pay for 4 years of college? Just wondering. Before I met my DH, I didn't know personally any parent who paid the whole thing. I had no intention of paying my son's college, but after we married, it seemed wrong to pay college for DHs kids, and make my DS repay his own college loan. So I took over his loan, it's almost paid off now.

Don't get me wrong, we're not wealthy. We're thrifty, and I have handled my money well over the years. There's plenty because we don't have expensive habits, we're thrifty, and we cut corners. My DHs idea of a new car, is finding one on eBay for about $2000. I hate this! But he's an engineer, he can fix anything.

My husband does not have a life insurance policy except the one provided through his employer. I don't even know how much it is. Most employers at best provide 1 year of annual salary. I think my policy through my employer is about $20,000. I have 3 other policies too. He said that he doesn't really believe in life insurance. If you read in one of my posts, he has had 4 different jobs in the last 3 years. I am not holding out on any employee provided life insurance policy. Plus when you retire, the policy expires, it is only for as long as you work for them. You have the option of paying the premiums yourself, but by age 60 something, that would be quite alot each month. It seems ridiculous to continue paying premiums just so that your kids can inherit something, when in retirement years you might struggle to make the premium each month. If this were my kids, they would probably feel that they should make the premium payments since they would be the benificiary. My kids (with the exception of my 17 year old) don't have a sense of entitlement. I just got an email today from DS23 who is in Somolia with the Marines, he was thanking me for all of the sacrificing that I did for all of the years that he was growing up. He specifically mentioned all the sacrifice of time as well as money so that he could take cello lessons, and play in the Youth Orchestra at the UW Wisconsin (which has expensive tuition to join).

My husband is listed as the primary benificiary on a 4 of my policies, with my 3 kids as contingent benificiaries. His 3 kids are not mentioned at all, I don't think they have to be. I took out policies in the 1980's, and they are completely paid off. So, I owe no monthly premiums. Also, I took 2 policies out on each child when they were 7 days old. The premiums were dirt cheap at that age. I am the primary benificiary, and their birth siblings are listed as contingent benificiaries. Right now if think this is OK to leave it that way. If my DS23 is killed in Somolia, his wife will get a HUGE settlement from the military, once he has children, I'll change it. My DH doesn't have any life insurance out on his kids. That's fine, 2 of them are married. The single one, who would pay for her expenses if she were killed, she's 25. It seems to me like she should have a policy out on herself. Maybe she does.

DH's airplane was purchased about 6 or 7 years ago for $40,000. There is no loan on it. Like I said, some new cars cost more.

If you would have reviewed our assets 5 or 6 years ago, he would have had much more. But he got screwed in his divorce settlement. He sold his Harley, sold the house, had to cut his IRA accounts in half with his ex. He walked away from the deal with his airplane, his personal belongings, half of his IRA, the kids college loans, and a court order to pay 38% of his income for the rest of his life. I don't see that he has alot to pass down to his kids. And I feel that just because he got screw in his divorce settlement, my kids shouldn't have to divide what I would like to leave them (if there's anything left) with his kids. It seems very out of balance to me.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 2:57PM
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I have said I dont think one size fits all. To me it seems that you havent been married that long, and combining finances is not a good idea. The important thing to me is that each spouse be honest with the other.

IMHO, you need to see a lawyer. While your husband is not on the title, and I suspect the "marital property" is more a divorce concept than an estate one (at least it is where I live), absent a prenup or post nup, my understanding is most non-community property states the surviving spouse gets at least 1/3 of estate. I think you need to set up a trust for your X to get life estate or term (whatever you think is appropriate) then at end of term (term being anywhere from 6 months to 10 years or more), or his life, housegoes to your kids. You need to think about things like what if he had to go into assisted living, what if he didnt have money to maintain the house, etc. You need the lawyer to say whether this meets the state rules on distributions to spouse, and if not, can he sign a waiver NOW.

Your situation actually sounds somewhat like my Xs -- his SO sold her condo moved in with him, and apparently does not work regularly. He has no intention of his assets going to her kids - its not a matter of her kids being obnoxious, etc., its that their not his kids.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 3:16PM
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"I think I am misunderstanding what you posted. You said that the step-parent (which I assume to be my DH) should inherit the house if I die. If this happens, then the courts will award my estate to his kids when he dies. Please clarify what you mean."

Sorry, I see where what I wrote was confusing. I guess what I meant in the case of your house was that you shouldn't worry about feeling obligated to give HIS kids YOUR HOUSE. That was the jist of what I was trying to get at.

Whether you want to bequeath any part of it to HIM is another question. I am not sure what you mean by "joint marital property state" under the terms you've used regarding what happens to your house... Do you mean "community property" state or "separate [marital] property" state? In my understanding, Wisconsin is not a "community property" state, meaning it's a "separate [marital] property" state. I thought it was the case that in "separate [marital] property" states, the whole point was to be able to divide major, titled property solely how you see fit, and that items such as a house may be held separately (as yours is) precisely so that the state DOESN'T ***automatically*** give any portion to your husband if he is not on the deed. He can get any or all of the ownership of the house if you will it to him, or, without a will, by the laws of intestate succession, which may give him at least half, depending on state law. If your will gives him less than half ownership, he can also file for an elective spousal share (half) if it is an option in your state and should he choose to take advantage of it (which most people would in that situation). Really, the only way for you to guarantee that he doesn't get any share of it is to transfer the deed over to one or more of your kids before you die.

But I'm not sure that is your intention. It sounds like you want him to get the house if you die before him, but you don't want his kids to end up with it instead of your kids after he dies. In that case, then, "life estate" for your husband is an option, with your kids inheriting the house after he dies. But unless I'm mistaken, I think this means he can't move or sell it, at least not without splitting the profits with your kids. If you think the odds are good that he will do that, then you may as well plan on willing that the house be sold after your death and direct the profits to be divided between your husband and your kids. (This wasn't really an option in the case of my Dad, my SM and I because none of us wanted to tell her she'd have to move out of the house upon his death, and wanted her to have the option of how long to live there.)

The thing is, in a blended family, it just can't be perfect. No one wants to have to tell a spouse they're going to have to pick up and move upon your death, but for some family situations, this may be the best solution. Or at least the least unpalatable or least complicated solution. Conversely, if the house is sold upon your death and the proceeds divided between your husband and kids, you can't control whether he decides to leave any of that money to his own kids. But then again, you'd be dead, anyway... and it hardly seems likely that you'd want to deprive your spouse of any part of the house, just because you don't like his kids. Most decisions in blended families involve some sort of trade-off, compromise or sacrifice... on EVERYBODY'S part. Nobody gets everything exactly the way they would have wanted it, simply because there are always combined interests to consider. It can be frustrating, but you try to do the fairest thing you can and suck up the fact that some things are going to be more complicated or less than ideal... or you don't get into a blended family in the first place.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 3:35PM
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Ahhhh.... I forgot that a "life estate" doesn't necessarily have to be for life, and that it can be for a specified number of years...

In that case, that really does seem like the best way to ensure everything goes the way Mom23 wants it to go.

I agree, too, that consulting with a lawyer is wise. For example, not sure how the life estate works with elective/spousal share: if spouse elects against the will to claim half-ownership of house, would this mean that after they vacate and kids move in, spouse still owns half? If so, that would not be an adviseable situation... that's the situation I was trying to avoid with sharing ownership of my Dad's house with my SM. Just knew that even if we'd had a decent relationship there would have been any number of near-constant back-and-forths over this that and the other little expenditure, and it wouldn't all be agreeable, most likely... But one thing I do know about elective/spousal share is that a good way around it is to make sure your will gives your spouse MORE THAN HALF of sum total of your estate so that if they opt for elective/spousal share (which is always INSTEAD OF the terms of the will, which they forfeit if they take spousal share) they would in fact be losing a significant amount of money. That might be the best way to prevent that situation where your husband and your kids could end up locked into a shared ownership situation which would likely result in squabbling, headaches, and sooner or later one party forcing a sale, which would mean your husband would still end up with profits from your house which at that point would definitely end up with his kids.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 3:52PM
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We have discussed this a few times over the past three years. I doesn't come to any conclusion though.

He feels that he has the potential to contribute more to the marriage financially than I do. And that, after several years of marriage, it will seem like "our house", and to divide our estate 6 ways equally would seem logical after several years of marriage.

When we married he made a very good salary. He lost that job and now his job pays him $37000 less that what he made then. He works 45 hours a week, I only work 24 hours a week. Our annual take home pay is about the same though, since he has to pay alimony.

He thinks it is completely logical that his 3 kids get an equal share of our estate (including the house, which is the largest asset). I do not feel this way though.

I feel like his kids got the advantage of 4 years of college paid for them, and that he gave them all a very good start in their adult lives.

Not to mention, that they have little or no regards for me. Someone posted that I'm really not their Step Mom. I didn't realize that, but now I accept that. Then they aren't my Step Kids either. It works both ways. I now refer then to my husband's son, daughter, or grandkids. I am not angry about it, but that just makes better sense to me.

When you talk about leaving an inheritance to Step Kids, it has a different connotation that leaving an inheritance to your husband's kids. It makes a difference.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 3:58PM
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I think a life estate counts toward 1/3 in my state. Or at least its used to.

As to elective/spousal share, a prenup can reduce or eliminate that -- some people think of aprenup in terms of divorce, its not just divorce. As to post-nup, sugggest legal advice.

Another tack my X is working on is increasing life time giving to his D to reduce his estate.

I know I am older than a lot of people here, and for people of my age, a life term and long-term care insurance are likely an alternative.

I agree sharing doesnt generally work.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 4:02PM
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After my husband died I mentioned to my attorney that I was worried about his kids suing for part of the estate he said they didn't have a chance, the survivor gets it all. The lawyer didn't even know how we had it arranged when he said it. He also said "there is no estate, you owned before he died and you own it now". It would have been the same if I had died first.

Also even though it is your house, I think he can live in it as long as he lives. When you marry everything belongs to him and you, you can't even sell the home without his signature and his name on the check. That is why I will never marry again. Half our money went for his care in a care home and I can't afford to go through that again.

A little warning here, when you get a lawyer get one in a nice posh office. I went to a neighborhood lawyer who had helped us with a rental issue. He told me I would lose everything if my husband went to a care home, the house, car and all the money, all I would have left would be my social security. It's hard to believe any lawyer could pass the boards and not know better than that.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 10:23PM
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I'm not worried about what would happen if he dies first. I am worried about what would happen if I would die first.

Like you said, "The survivor gets it all". My entire estate would then be his, and if he never got around to writing a will, and willing my house to my kids, then when he would pass, anything remaining would go to his childen, nothing would go to mine. And if he would remarry (which I would want him to do if he wants to), then his new wife would inherit his estate when he passes. In that case neither his kids nor my kids would get anything.

I realize that these are hypothetical cases, but these scenarios happen every day.

It seems like something should go to his kids in his will, but he doesn't have a life insurance policy except the one his employer provides (which is small).

If anything happened to me I would want my IRAs to go to DH so that he would have money to live on, but if there was any left over after he passes, I would want it to go to my kids, not his. They're not bad people, just not my kids, and I have absolutely no desire to leave an inheritance to them.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 2:39AM
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Mom, I agree with you. The problem is one is left with the typical state defaults if one does not actively plan. While I have warned about this, most people on this board seem to generally say everything should be combined, surviving spouse gets to decide who inherints. While I agree with you, many of the SMs here expect that their spouse will leave them everthing, and then they will have the sole right to dispose of upon their death (and then emphasize that children have no right to expect anything). I agree with you that the first to die spouse should not have to rely on the goodwill of survivor toward his children.

Of coure, the surviving spouse is generally the woman (statistically). My X is well off, and most of his estate will go to DD. He has arranged this by a prenup (or pre-cohabitation, which if he gets married, will be converted to prenup), and is now augmenting that with an increase in his lifetime giving program.

The problem as I see it is having not discussed this with your DH before marriage, or not having reached an agreement with him, you have now reached an impasse. He apparently discussed this with his SO, who has called me in drunken stupors to complain about this etc. Anyway back to you. You should see a lawyer and give him two alternatives. One, hubby will agree to what you and I think is reasonable, and Two, he wont. If he wont, perhaps attorney can suggest putting your home in a trust for your life, remainder to him for a term certain, should he survive you, and then to your children. If house in your name, and not CP state, I think that should be allowed, ask.

Stargazer, I have to disagree with much of what you said. Do you honestly think kids never inherint, even when there is a surviving spouse? And if one spouse is not on title, of course the other can sell it. Maybe you live in a communtiy property state, I dont think OP does. Now Ima will has critized me for giving legal advice, but I doubt she will critized any SM.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 2:13PM
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SO called me in a drunken stupor????.......Why oh why dont you just let the machine pick up? Indifference is the greatest insult....

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 3:14PM
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Every case has to be looked at personally. My estate will go to a college, neither my kids or his will get a dime. They don't deserve anything. I don't reward people for neglecting their parents and by neglect I mean not seeing your father in four years when they live in the same city. Not all step mothers are greedy nor are all steps. My steps never wanted a thing from the estate except one daughter wanted some keep sakes, nothing of value. She was the spoiled brat, so that surprised the h*** out of me.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 3:30PM
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Dotz -- I dont always know if it is her calling. X doesnt always tell me when he is going out of town. I have no reason to duck his calls.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 3:34PM
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I'm not so sure legally you can always give your retirement to someone other than the spouse. I know I can't. My spouse has to sign off on giving away both my pension and my 401k to my kids (I work for the federal government).

In some states, houses, even those bought before marriage are community property. Some states say that only the increase of value from the time of marriage to the time of divorce or separation is community property, and some states say, no matter how much you've put into the property investment-wise, if your name's not on the title you are out of luck. You need to check with a lawyer about the pensions, retirement funds, property, and joint investments. You might not have as much choice as you think.

I don't think anyone inherits debts. Unless the kids are cosigners on the education loans, they just vanish at death. The institutions write them off on the taxes as uncollectable. If the kids are co-signers of the loans, then that kid should get the loan, after all, he got the benefit.

Life insurance can go where you want. I think generally at least half the life insurance should go to the spouse, but if a kid is co-signed on an education loan, you can deduct that, and then split the rest between your spouse, and your biokids for the first dead parent and even among all kids for the second dead parent (the stepkids then getting the dead spouse's portion).

If one of you wants life insurance on your spouse, get it in your name and pay the premiums.

Toys like cars and airplanes and such probably should go to the bio-kids if they were bought before the marriage. Joint toys go to the spouse.

But there are so many factors that it's really an individual decision.

Find out what happens if you die intestate: I think (don't know) that spouse gets half, bio and adopted kids split a fourth and surviving parents get a fourth (and if there are no parents, the kids get the rest).

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 4:55PM
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Problem with getting life insurance on my spouse now is that he is 53, and at that age the premiums would be very expensive. I took mine out at age 22, and paid up the premiums over 20 years. My premiums were paid up about 10 years ago.

Why tell me to get insurance on him and pay the premiums? Why not say the same thing to his 3 kids? If you want a policy on your Dad, then take one out and pay the premiums? How is it fair for us to take out a policy, pay the premiums out of our money, but the benifit goes to them? Where is the equality is this?

My DH is the primary benificiary on my life insurance policies, with my 3 kids listed as contingent benificiaries. I may have my 3 kids listed on 1 of my 4 policies as primary,it would be a small policy. Another one of the policies would be only about $10,000 which is meant to cover final expenses.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 5:43PM
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"I don't think anyone inherits debts. Unless the kids are cosigners on the education loans, they just vanish at death. The institutions write them off on the taxes as uncollectable."

When there are debts, nobody 'inherits' them but if there are assets, the estate usually pays the debts before distribution. I guess if there are more debts than assets, all the assets would be liquidated and the debts paid and excess might be written off... but they sure as heck aren't going to let the kids or spouse keep the house, 401k, vehicles, bank accounts and stock options... and write off debts. If there is a state that does that, let me know so I know where I am going to retire!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 6:09PM
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In a first marriage, when one spouse dies, then everything goes to the surviving spouse. This happened in the case of my 80 year old father dying and leaving everything to his 75 year old wife of 52 years (my mother). This is normal. I still may never see any of my Dad's estate. My mother may need it all before she dies. If she does, then good for her. It was hers with him before he died, and it it still hers now. I know that they were planning on donating some of it to the Eastern Star, which they both enjoyed. I am entitled to nothing. She may develop severe health problems, and the money can be eaten up quickly. Again, I am entitled to nothing.

When two people remarry, they own everything together, and are both (in our case) contributing financially to the marriage and life that they are building together. Why then should assest they build together go to one or other of the kids when on spouse dies? Why does this mean one spouse or the other is greedy? I don't think it does.

I think in the case where one spouse brings significant assets into the marriage, that this is an exception. I think it would be fair for my house (which I had about $190,000 in equity in when we married) should go to my husband if I die, for as long as he needs it. Then when he dies, it should go directly to my 3 kids (and no portion of it going to his kids).

He brought his airplane (paid for) into our marriage. If he dies right now, it would go to me. Since I don't fly, and none of his kids do either, then it would have to be sold. It seems like the money from this could go to his kids, but a portion of it go to pay for final expenses first. But I really don't even think this is totally fair either. Airplanes are expensive to store and maintain. We spend about $3000 on annual inspections, insurance, and storage for the airplane. That money comes out of our budget, and money that we earn together. If they are going to inherit the airplane, then should they share expenses now? That would be ridiculous!

I like my mother, should be left my husband's assets when he dies, 100% on them. My spouse should be left 100% of my assets when I die also. One never know what the future hold, and he may need the money, so might I.

When an inheritance comes in hopefully is late, late in life. If there is anything left over after each spouse has used whatever they need in their lifetime, then I think those assets should go back to the original birth children.

One day, my DH will have failing eyesight, or high blood pressure, and he will not pass his annual flight physical, and will be told he can no longer fly. He will sell his plane, and we will probably will use the money to travel, or buy a car, or remodel something in our house. Together we have paid the annual fees on the plane, and together we would reap the benifits from the sale of the plane. It seems crazy to think if he sold it, that the money should go to his kids.

The airplane isn't like a house. This house we can live in until we die at age 90 or whenever. He cannot use his airplane when he can no longer pass a flight physical. Airplanes that just sit in a hangar lose their value. So it would become a heap of metal junk if it wasn't being flown.

My point is, he brought very little into the marriage, as a result of being screwed over by his ex at the divorce. I feel bad for him, and his kids. But this isn't my problem.

I took out life insurance policies, and made house payments starting in the mid 1980's. I'm not wealthy. I just worked alot of night shifts, and made alot of payments. I planned well, and had my children in mind when I took out policies, etc. If he doesn't believe in life ins. then that's OK. But his kids are the ones left out.

I was told in my other thread that I am not his kids Step Mom. That I am only their father's wife. Well, that is great! All the more reason that I don't feel obligated to leave them anything in my will. I am very content to be their father's wife. And their grandfather's wife. This role makes the most sense to me. I didn't raise them. They never grew up in this house. They have absolutely NO claim to any part of it.

If I would have lost my house in my divorce, and moved in with my DH to his paid for house. His kids would feel that they were entitled to inherit the house, and that mine would have NO claim to any of it. I think that is how they should feel. It should stay in the original family, with the remaining spouse having life estate.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 6:40PM
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//Why tell me to get insurance on him and pay the premiums?//

Because it's your financial security at stake. And right now, your DH is the owner of the policy and if he chooses to leave it to his kids, then you are SOL. Not nice, not fair, but be is what it is.

//Why not say the same thing to his 3 kids? If you want a policy on your Dad, then take one out and pay the premiums?//

Why should they when they are the beneficiaries to their dad's policy?

//How is it fair for us to take out a policy, pay the premiums out of our money, but the benifit goes to them?//

I agree. The person who pays the premiums should get the benefit, and since the premiums likely come out of marital money (depending on the state you live in and how marital money is defined), I believe you should get the benefit. If he doesn't see it that way, then I would absolutely remove him from your insurance policy and make it all go to your biokids.

Of course the kids may point out that you will get the social security survivor benefits and widow's pension, so you don't need it, and they should get the insurance because otherwise they get nothing. Not saying it's right, just saying that's likely their POV.

//Where is the equality is this?//

There is none, I don't think adult kids are equals with spouses, I think spouses' needs come first and kids get leftovers. Unless they are minor kids. And if there are no leftovers, kids get nothing. Oh well, for them. But my opinion does not matter.

Also look into term life vs whole, unless he smokes, there are reasonable 20 year term life policies for 53 year old males.

//When there are debts, nobody 'inherits' them but if there are assets, the estate usually pays the debts before distribution.//

Some assets are protected from debt after death, and of course if you put the assets in a trust, creditors can't touch them no matter how many debts you have. Just a thought.

Maybe this is another way to look at it. What was your DH's net worth at time of marriage? Now factor in the depreciation of the depreciable assets like the plane. His kids should get no more than that. If he came in with $50,000 clear and the plane has since depreciated $5000, the kids share at most $45,000 tops.

Do the same for yourself. Same for you. If your assets minus your debts the day before you marriage was $100,000, and in the current economy your house has lost $30,000, then at death your kids if they are no longer minors get $70,000. If your house is now worth $30,000 than the day you married, your kids get half of it, and your DH half because he invested in the house equally with you since the marriage. So your kids get $115,000.

Yes, that may seem unfair to DH because his kids get less money-wise, but he bought depreciable airplanes instead of appreciable housing. He made different choices for his money which affected his kids' inheritance.

As for what you and he built together, I think the other spouse gets it all; you built it for yourselves. The marital assets and equity and debts belong to you and him and if one of you is gone it's still marital assets, belonging to the survivor. You have equal chances at being the survivor.

That he spent $120,000 on kids' college prior to the marriage and your kids chose not to go to college and thus didn't cost you much that way has no bearing on now. They aren't entitled to $120,000 to make it even with his kids. In this case he and his kids made decisions that benefitted them financially; and you and your kids made other decisions that didn't benefit them in the that way. It could be said you could afford to buy the house because you didn't pay for their colleges: therefore they are getting their college investment in your pre-marriage house.

I don't think your stepkids should get a penny of what your house equity was worth at the time of your marriage.

What is your DH advocating for versus what are you advocating for?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 6:56PM
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My DH has a small insurance policy through his employer, which I am named as primary benificiary, with his 3 kids named as contingent benificiaries. He has no other policy. There is no policy with them listed as primary benificiaries.

And remember, his pension has already divided in half with his ex at the divorce. I am listed as primary benificiary on his IRA account (and he is listed the same way on mine). His pension is no where near enough to retire on, mine either. I feel if he died, I would need his pension; and if I died he would need my pension.

My home was 95% paid the day we married. The assessed value (which was done in 2008) is $195,000. That is what a home of comparible worth in our area would sell for today. He has not and is not investing in the house since our marriage. Do you mean paying monthly bills like utilities, or what do you mean? The house is already paid for. Neither one of us is investing in it. The investment was already made before I married him. Do you mean the yearly taxes? Or what do you mean? If it's fair for me to pay 100% of the taxes, because I own the house, then it's fair for me to charge him rent. This gets ridiculous. If he didn't move in with someone who owned a house, then he would be paying several hundren monthly for either rent or a mortgage. So I don't think that because he helps pay the yearly taxes that that entitles his kids to inherit a portion.

I think sharing the maintainance costs of the house, the taxes, and the insurance is fair. This does not change the fact that I am still owner. He gets the benifit of living there without making mortgage payments. Alot of my coworkers are paying $2000 monthly in mortgage payments, he doesn't have to do this because of me.

As far as the airplane goes, it's value is about $40,000. I feel that if he died, that it goes to me. Like I said in my last post, our joint money pays the $3000 yearly needed to maintain the plane. His kids won't even come and help him wash it. Why should they inherit it? It would be different if suddenly we both were killed together in a car accident. And suddenly there were assets to liquidate. Then by all means, sell it and divide the money with his 3 kids. But if he dies, I may need the money from the sale of the plane to live on.

The airplane really doesn't depreciate like a car does, they hold their value much better.

As far as the college payments to his kids. Well, that all didn't happen prior to our marriage. The only part that happened prior to our marriage was his agreement with them to pay their college. He had loans out on them when we married, and those loans were brought into the marriage. So, the way I see it, some of the money that we both together today are bringing into the marriage, is paying off the remainder of his kids college loans. The loan for SD24 hasn't been started to be repaid, she is still in college. He won't start repaying for another year or two.

I was not at all suggesting that my kids get something worth $120,000 to even the score. If he took his kids to Disney Land when they were 8 years old, then does that mean that my kids are owed a Disney Land trip too? Of course not.

I just look at it like he chose to give his kids a start in life, and this is the way he/they chose. I don't think that I shouldn't be able to give my kids a start in life too. I was thinking something more along the lines of helping with a downpayment on a first home, or something like that, maybe like an amount of $10,000 or something like that. I don't have that much cash to give any of my kids, and would need to take out a second mortgage to do it. But I don't see this as different than taking out a loan for college.

15 years from now I'm afraid that our 6 children will look back on things and feel that 3 kids got a start in life from their parent, and 3 didn't. I don't think that because they don't want to attend college, that it is fair to pass judgment on them and say because they chose to not do what I wanted them to do, that they get no help. Mind you, my kids are not asking for help, and when I've offered, they say they don't need it. They don't feel entitled to cash from me or anyone else.

When DH and I talk about what would be fair to designate in a will, he says that neither will die untill we are elderly (that runs in our families). And that after 25 years of marriage together, that it will seem more like a blended family, it will seem like "our house", and our money. Then anything left in the estate when we both pass would be divided 6 equal shares between all children. In other words, his kids would get an equal share in all of our assets (including my house). I told him that I don't think this is fair to my kids, and he disagrees. Since we haven't agreed on anything, we haven't written a will. I know that I can just go to an attorney by myself and write up whatever I want, but what would that do to the trust and communication that we are building in our marriage? I feel that whatever we do, we have to agree, and go in together to do wills.

I just feel like, he basically started over from scratch when he divorced. And because he divorced that he was screwed financially, and his kids also. Had he not divorced, his kids would have inherited his house. It is unfortunate that it happened this way, buy why do I have to share my kid's inheritance with his kids, to compensate for what he and his kids lost at his divorce?

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 5:47AM
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I think you are very reasonable. I suspect you arent getting an overwhelming wall of support is because most times it is the stepmom whose kids stand to benefit from a sharing and most people here are stepmoms. Just my guess. The litany on this board is always money should be shared and spouse gets everything and surviving spouse gets to make all decisions. Again, typically benefits the woman. Not what most finanical planners etc say. Maybe it is also an age thing, I suspect you and I are older than most on this board. Entering into a marriage in your 50s there is less thought about building an estate togethor, more about preserving and allocating what you have. I realize you say your DH has expectations he will be earning more, but given his age and current economy, I think that may not be realistic.

See a lawyer. You dont need your husbands permission to make a will. Be upfront with lawyer and tell him what you want. A will can always be revised, if you guys do live and are married for 20+ years.

Alternatively, tell DH, OK, everything will be shared, expect for specific bequests to children to equalize the college situation etc.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 8:55AM
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Then, in my opinion, you really just need to keep the finances separate. Just as you say your husband would have the responsibility of paying a mortgage payment were it not for his relationship with you, likewise you each would have to worry about your own retirement and your own kids had you never met and instead each remained single. Single people have to figure this stuff out all the time. Not everyone gets married (some people aren't even allowed to get married), not everyone has wealthy parents, not everyone can count on another person on this earth helping them out with anything.

I'm not saying that to suggest that everyone should pretend they're a pauper because paupers exist, because that would be unrealistic (i.e. I believe it DOES make a difference when there is extra money to share, it DOES make a difference when it's a first vs. second marriage in how certain things ideally should be handled). I'm only pointing out that other people manage to figure out independently how to meet their own expenses and provide for their retirement and kids without counting on somebody else's money. So it IS possible and if you plan for this you won't be panicking. Because, btw, it's not only your husband's kids who could potentially leave you without his insurance/retirement money, there is also the possibility of insurance companies and retirement funds going to heck in a handbasket, or DH or one of your kids getting in an accident or getting a disease that eats it all up, or a housefire, or a nasty divorce or a burglary or an asteroid. So there are lots of reasons to try not to rely on anything or anyone or counting on a pile of someone else's money waiting for you which for so many reasons may not be there for you or anyone. This kind of foresight and independence is what many parents (bio and step) try to instill in their own kids, right? If parents are telling their kids that it's possible for them to be fully independent and to not expect any money from them ---at any point in time, even after death--- then it's only fair that the parents at least try to take their own advice and plan for their own future as best they can. Then if it turns out there is something extra left over, it's gravy.

I can understand the sense of deep disappointment when someone marries into a blended family and because of the circumstances feels they get less (in SOME ways) out of the traditional marriage contract than others who marry for the first time and are more likely to start out on more equal footing and share the exact same experiences and responsibilities to the exact same children. I can see that this difference alone probably accounts for an enormous chunk of the resentment and sense of being "gypped" that a step-parent may feel. But try to remember, too, that it isn't just you who has to sacrifice and accomodate and compromise and do things a bit differently than you might otherwise prefer. Your husband does, and his kids and your kids have to as well. Everybody has had to give up something, everyone has had to feel like it's unfair, everyone has had to accomodate and to somewhat adjust (and lower) their expectations. It is true that if you separate your finances you will be less likely to be able to count on getting all of your husband's assets when if he dies before you. But it is also true that he will face the exact same issue, and it is also true that your kids will likely get a lot more out of the deal than his kids will because they will get your house, which his kids will not. So it is not one-sided and in fact is much more advantageous ---the way things currently stand--- to you and your children.

So it may seem unfair and unromantic that you may have to separate your finances for this to work. But it may be the smartest idea, especially for you personally. Especially if combining things is causing you and perhaps others to constantly question the equality and fairness of every little thing, which it certainly sounds like it is. That right there is probably the number one cause of divorce in second marriages. It will erode everything and affect everyone in the blended family in a very negative way if you can't figure out a system that works and is fair. For some people combining finances into one big pot works fine, but generally speaking as soon as the first bit of questioning, comparing (usually apples to oranges) and feelings of being slighted enter the mind of one or more people in the situation, most people decide at that point that it's time to separate finances. Not as "giving up" or conceding a failure to get along but so as to better preserve the goodwill and prevent unnecessary fights. It's not the traditional way, but in many ways it's better, especially for the person who has more assets.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 9:01AM
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I dont think it necessarily first v. second marriage, I think it is just as much marriage of young people v. older (or at least middle aged) people.

Unfortunately all of this should have been discussed and agreed on before marriage.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 9:52AM
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I agree you should probably keep finances separate, but unfortunately once you married without a prenupt, it sounds like your house automatically went into community property and legally he owns half, which means his kids own half. It's done and apparently your husband is not willing to take steps to have it be undone (maybe I'm wrong?) At this point there's nothing you can do unilaterally to ensure the house goes to your kids and not his.

I wonder if your husband would be willing to 'buy' into a share of the house. You had let's say $200,000 of equity in the house the day you married. Wisconsin apparently has decided that the moment you said I Do, he owns $100,000 of that equity. So he pays you $100,000 of equity and thus has a legitimate invested interest in half the house.

I know you can't force him to give up $100,000 and probably he doesn't have it anyway. But he does have an expensive hobby, I'm sure that plane costs more than $3000 a year with gas and fees and insurance, etc... Maybe he can cut back there. Or maybe he can take out a loan secured by his plane for a portion of that amount. Maybe henceforth he pays 75% of the household bills rather than half. Maybe he has a payment plan where he pays you $6000 a year which means by the time he retires, he's reimbursed you for the equity he gained (and you lost at the time of the marriage).

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 10:42AM
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I realize only Stepmoms are allowed to give legal advice, but I think you are wrong.

In most community property states, property acquired during the marraige (other than by gift or bequest) becomes CP. Generally speaking, the property that each partner brings into the marriage or receives by gift, bequest or devise during marriage is called separate property (i.e., not community property). Please stop scaring OP.

OP -- please consult a lawyer.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 10:56AM
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