My husband wrote a new will when our relationship was in bad shape. I do not know what is in this will, but it’s still current and in his brother’s possession.
The good news: We are in a happier place now! However, I would like to write my own will. Before I do that, I have a few questions:
1. My husband is the beneficiary on my life-insurance policy. I would now like to split this 50/50 between him and my daughter. Would I have to change the policy?
2. I do not want him to sell any of the assets in my name so he can benefit from them, as I want to make sure they are secure for my daughter’s future. Can I specify this in my will?
3. I would like to leave my 401(k) and IRA accounts to my daughter and husband, splitting them 50/50. Can I state this in my will too?
Curious Wife in Massachusetts
Let channel my inner “Dear Abby” before I go any further. It drives some of this column’s readers up a wall, but I just can’t help myself, and this column is just as much about relationships as money. So bear with me: If you are in a happier place in your marriage and you wish to remain so and/or find higher, more stable ground as you move ahead with your lives, I do have some suggestions.
Be transparent about your plans. If your husband discovers you changed the beneficiaries on your 401(k) and IRA accounts, it may erode the trust you have built up in recent times. An erosion of your trust today can lead to an unraveling of your relationship and bank balance tomorrow. Massachusetts is not a community property state, so assets would not necessarily be divided 50/50.
How did you find out about his will? Did he tell you? How did it make you feel when you discovered that? I’m glad you’re in a happy or happier place, but I also implore you to question your motivations. While I agree that it’s a good idea to make sure your daughter is looked after, I don’t believe it’s a good idea for you to do this unilaterally. It’s time to discuss your end-of-life plans together.
My answers to your questions:
2. Talk to your estate lawyer about a trust for your daughter, should she still be a minor at the time of your death. Make separate wills and keep them with your attorney; it’s not a job for relatives.
3. You need to change the beneficiary on the actual policies. Your husband will likely need to sign a waiver to relinquish his claim to your 401(k).
Having such discussions about inheritance is good practice for you both. It also indicates that you are planning to spend your old age together. I wish you many more happy days.
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