The dilemma: I have a husband who is a serial entrepreneur. He’s always got a great business deal that’s going to make us a fortune, and then ends up signing papers, doing deals, taking space, hiring and firing, and we end up with a mess, and owing taxes and legal fees that he doesn’t have. We’re over 70 and have a business that supports us, but he is always looking at what’s better, and then our business doesn’t get the right attention.
My parents left me an inheritance that my lawyer told me to put in my own name, which I did in a living trust, but every time he screws up, I end up bailing him (us) out from my money. It makes me crazy. We’re too old and not rich enough to divorce, so that is not an option. Neither is saying no when he’s in trouble, because it affects my credit, and besides, my husband and the accountant always bully me. Then I run to the therapist. We’re supposed to be retired by now!
Here’s my dilemma: He wants to have my money when I die, but I have set it up so he gets the interest, but he can take money if he really needs it. I know him, and my girls adore him. He will drain that trust and there will be nothing left to give our children and grandchildren after he’s gone. I do want him to have the interest, but how do I protect my daughters, one of whom is a single Mother, and 3 grandchildren? He loves the kids, but he could care less if they are left a dime. He wants it all for him.
Meg’s solution: You’re right. He will find a way, “for his health and welfare” to access these funds, especially if your daughters are trustees after you’re gone. You have two choices, as I see it. You should go to your estate attorney and see if you can make the trust much stricter than it is. Perhaps just allow a certain amount to go to him each month should you predecease him, and that’s it. No wiggle room, and the investments go to your children when he dies.
Behind door No. 2: You can make gifts to the girls and grandchildren at your death, right off the top, and leave a percentage to him outright. If he can make it work for him when the time comes, that’s ideal. This all needs to be discussed with your lawyer, your girls, and lastly him.
Your other dilemma is scarier to me, and that is all the insecurity you have to live with not knowing when the next financial shoe may drop, and the fighting that ensues. That’s stress that I couldn’t deal with. Two things here. First, consult with a divorce attorney as to how to keep your inheritance a non-marital asset so you can actually control its disposition and have some protection. If your inheritance becomes part of your marriage, then you may not be as in control of these funds as you believe. Woman, be knowledgeable and protect thyself.
That being said, the best solution, if at all possible, is to get a business consultant, not an accountant who bullies you, and stop fighting. Let him tell you both how to maximize your existing business so perhaps your husband can get that feeling of success and winning that he so sorely needs. You need it too. If you’re not rich enough to divorce, that means that you probably don’t have enough to retire comfortably without income from your business.
See if you can make a team effort … the two of you, to maximize the business. Find an heir apparent, perhaps a child or grandchild, to help build and buy you out when it’s gained in value. Then you get to cruise into the sunset. Fairy tales can come true, but you’ve got to work them.
Got a dilemma? Email meg@ meg green .com. Meg Green, CFP, is a wealth manager with offices in Aventura. Her Money Dilemmas column runs monthly in The Miami Herald.