I hide a million dollars from my husband

I hide a million dollars from my husband

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Dear Pay Dirt,

I have a loving and adorable husband who is 12 years older than me. I make about $100,000 a year and he makes five to six times that amount depending on how his bonuses go. He recently started saving more aggressively for retirement with the goal of having us both retire at the same time in 15 years (he at 60 and me at 48). He has worked hard and bears almost all of our household’s day-to-day expenses – I am aligned with him in this lofty goal.

However, in all of my husband’s calculations, he bases our retirement needs on his lifetime and refuses to acknowledge that statistically I am likely to outlive him by 20 years and will need funds to support myself for this additional period of retirement. Frustrating, but I believe I have a tidy solution! I am the sole beneficiary of a trust, from which I withdrew a distribution of $1 million to buy us our matrimonial home because even though he earned a lot, he had very little savings at the time. We agreed that the rest of my trust would be used to pay for our children’s school fees and pension.

When he asked me what the current value of the trust was to use it to calculate what we currently have saved for our retirement, I told him that there was $1 million left when in fact, $2 million remained. The trust will be dissolved next year and any remaining funds will be distributed to me. Can I split the value into two accounts and put $1 million for our joint retirement and save $1 million in an account in my name just for my personal retirement funds to use once I will probably be widowed at some point given ? Does he need to know? My plan would be to make our two children the beneficiaries of this private account in order to replace my will which states that everything reverts to my husband upon my death in the unlikely event that I walk past him to keep him away from possible or- dig, second wife. If it matters, we have a prenuptial agreement that specifically states that trust funds are not considered marital property. I admire his “what’s mine is ours” attitude, but if he’s not ready to accept that I’ll probably have a life after him, then I have to watch out for myself! Are there any other considerations I should make?

—Some of what is mine is ours

Dear what is mine,

While I admire the desire to write in this advice column, someone with a joint family income of $700,000 and a trust of $3 million should be speak to an estate lawyer. I know finding a qualified professional for your complicated legal matter can seem daunting. But you probably know the phone number of an estates lawyer because you inherited a multi-million dollar trust. I am a licensed investment adviser, but I am not your investment adviser.

At the heart of your question is a fear shared by many women: they will not be supported in their old age if their husband dies before them. Once-wealthy widows living in reduced circumstances are a recurring theme in many of Jane Austen’s works, as the women’s inheritance (their “wealth”) became the property of their husbands when they married. Husbands were expected to invest their wife’s dowry in the “four and five” and take only her 4-5% annual interest for the household income. If the wife were widowed, her dowry would become her property again but her husband’s other property would go to his male heirs. Unfortunately, many wealthy husbands have made bad investments, lost their wife’s dowry, or died without updating their wills to grant their surviving wife a life interest in their property.

Fortunately, women now have property rights in their marriages. Because you entered the marriage with substantial assets and a prenuptial agreement to protect them, have equal rights to marital property, and earn your own six-figure salary, you have more opportunities than Mrs. Dashwood didn’t have any Sense and sensitivity. You should take advantage of this opportunity and privilege to find an estate attorney you trust and discuss the options. A division of trust depends on several factors, such as the type of trust (revocable, complex, irrevocable), your state and your marriage contract.

Should you keep lying to your husband about how much you trust? Probably not. Hiding assets worth $1 million can be a breach of trust, affect financial planning and taxes, and could hurt you in the event of a divorce, your estate attorney will tell you. It would make a good subplot in Gossip Girl or Succession, though. But let’s keep the concealment of the major assets of a spouse relegated to television soap operas.

—Lillian

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