My spouse’s father left her a house and cash in a belief. This subsidizes our lifestyle. What’s going to occur to me when she dies?

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Dear Quentin,

I live in pennsylvania. My father-in-law died four years ago, leaving a trust for my wife and her two sisters. They each received a vacation home in a trust under will. My wife and I rent our house and the income is used to pay for our current house and expenses. We have grown after receiving the trust rent.

My wife has no will and has not named me as her successor trustee in the event of her death. None of us have children. The proceeds have been used jointly since receipt of the trust assets. The money is transferred to a joint account and I take care of all financial transactions on our house and the rental property.

She says everything will go to me since we’ve been married for 30 years. Although there has never been a problem with her sisters, I am concerned that her sisters might try to claim it as family property if something happens and say that I am not entitled to it. I would need this continued income to maintain my current residence as there is no life insurance or significant savings.

Am I worried for no reason or should I try to convince them again of the need for a will?

Paranoid in PA

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

Dear paranoid,

Most things are good in moderation, even paranoia.

You are right, if your wife fully owns the house, it is considered marital property under the law. You are the direct heir of your wife and if you do not have children you would inherit all of her property. What happens to funds in the trust of course depends on the terms of that trust. According to what you said, the income from your rental home appears to be secure.

But…

It is always recommended to have a will even if you do not have children, and especially when dealing with matters involving inheritance and trusts. Avoiding inheritance is one way to keep your affairs private. You may also want to consider establishing a financial authorization and medical policy in the event either of you becomes incapacitated and unable to manage your own affairs.


“Avoiding inheritance is one way of keeping your affairs private.”

“Couples without children who can act as surrogate agents should consider appointing others with whom they have an established relationship, who are trustworthy and have the experience and ability to shoulder the responsibilities of an agent with financial authority and / or medical authority Authority to adopt policy, ”said the law firm McNamee Hosea.

“Additionally, as part of their estate plan, they should consider maximizing their estates by minimizing the income tax impact of retirement benefits,” the law firm added. “To the extent that they have charitable intentions, for example, they could designate a charity to benefit part or all of the retirement account and give other beneficiaries other non-taxable assets.”

As you can see, there are so many other reasons to put your intentions on paper. If you have a complicated estate, the estate can last for months or even longer, especially if there are individuals who decide they are entitled to a piece of cake. There is no explanation for the peace of mind – and apparently having a second conversation with your wife would help you with that.

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