My common-law husband has two children from a previous marriage. They are in their early 30s now. Neither of them is pleasant to be around, nor have they ever shown any consideration or respect for me. Honestly, I dislike them very much.
My partner is the executor of my will. I feel he has always had terribly poor judgment when it comes to financial matters. It is I who pays for most everything and have done very well. Our homes are in my name, since I paid for them, and I have a solid trading account.
I would like to provide my partner with plenty to live on and permit him to remain in the house, but give all my money to the Sea Shepherd nonprofit and Justice for Animals. I absolutely don’t want his two brats to inherit one penny from me.
My partner has managed to save a couple hundred thousand to pass on to them, enabled by me, which is more than generous. We already have a cohabitation agreement, which is recognized in our state. What advice can you give me?
Wife and Reluctant Stepmother
You have the right to leave your money to whomever you choose and, as I told this gentleman, alleviating the suffering of abused animals is always a good cause. It sounds like you are bound by a cohabitation agreement rather than a common-law marriage, which is only recognized in a handful of states. Let’s proceed on the basis that it’s the former rather than the latter.
If your partner has proven himself to be imprudent or irresponsible with money in the past, and given the fact that he has two children whom you do not wish to receive any of your estate, I suggest appointing an independent executor of your estate — and/or should you decide to set up a trust to manage your funds after you’re gone, appoint a third party as the trustee.
Brian Tully, an attorney specializing in elder law and life care planning, agrees 100% that you need a trust and third party as successor trustee. “The revocable trust serves to avoid the expensive, lengthy and public-court proceeding called probate and allows for a seamless transition in authority should the wife lose capacity in the future,” he said.
“Selecting the successor trustee will be key — it’s a business decision, not an emotional one, so select someone who is firm and financially savvy, as there may be a challenge or pressure by the undeserving children of your partner,” he adds. “If no one like that is close, then select a trusted attorney, CPA or financial institution.”
Upon your passing, you can then — as you stated — provide your partner with the right to live in your home for his lifetime as long as he pays the expenses, Tully says. “Should he fail to pay the expenses or move out, the successor trustee can sell the property,” he says. When the home is sold or upon his death, those proceeds can also be distributed to your charities of choice.
So far, so good. You know what you want, and you are making no apology for your decisions. It’s your money and your life. You are also being transparent about your wishes with your partner, and giving him a life estate to live in your home is thoughtful and generous. Believe me, not everyone has such forethought.
In the meantime, I wish you many happy years ahead.
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