New Husband’s Divorce Agreement With Ex Wife
My husband's divorce agreement with his ex wife shows his son gets all of his assets and real property and that his ex wife is named as executor and as trustee for his estate if he dies before his son is 28 years old. He said that this wasn't final agreement, but it's signed by the judge and he hasn't shown me a different agreement. He didn't think he'd marry again. Should I be concerned?
I always liked the Alfred E. Neumann Mad Magazine "What me Worry?" view. Sure you should worry. Lots of issues to consider, but in the end you'll need to consult with a family lawyer in your state to make sure you're protected. Here's some of the many issues you might want to consider and review with your attorney:
- What really is the governing agreement or documents that will affect what your husband can bequeath or not? Was the agreement you read the final word? You need to get this clear and get copies of all the relevant documents or no one can really answer your questions.
- Most states have a law governing what a spouse can demand from a deceased spouse's estate. These rules are often called a "spousal right of election". You need to understand what that right will give you and whether it can supersede any of the other decisions made under other documents.
- Did you sign a prenuptial agreement with your husband? (You should have). What does it say? What does the financial data typically attached as exhibits say to that agreement? Prenuptial agreements often have representations as to what assets and income each spouse to be has and these are often tied into financial data attached as exhibits at the end of the agreement. Review these and compare them to the financial information in the divorce agreement.
- Have a family or matrimonial attorney help you review and better understand the divorce documents (if your husband won't cooperate, you have other issues and concerns). Do they really say what you indicated in your question? If the son passes the ages indicated does he still receive all of the assets? In many cases the divorce agreement may only apply to specified or agreed upon assets. It may not apply to any post divorce assets. It may even be more limited than that. However, some agreements are really poorly drafted and use such broad and all encompassing language that almost any asset your husband has interests in could be included. Have a lawyer help you parse through the details.
- Carefully understand what assets the prior agreement applies to. It may be possible that if your husband retitles an asset to joint ownership to you it may no longer be covered by the divorce agreement. It may be possible that if you contribute anything to the purchase or upkeep of an asset that asset may thereafter be characterized as marital assets as to you and excluded from the divorce agreement. Without seeing the exact language in the agreement its really impossible to do more than take wild guesses. Get a good local family lawyer to help you out.
- What about life insurance? If your husband is in good health he might simply be able to purchase life insurance on his life to assure you adequate assets regardless of what happens to his other assets. If you go this route have an estate planner in your state put together a trust to hold the insurance.
- If your inheritance from your husband will be limited perhaps he can purchase long term care insurance for you now to protect you in the future in addition to the life insurance noted above. There are lots of ways to skin a cat so make sure that you explore them all until you find a reasonable way to have peace of mind and reasonable protection.
Start with the facts and documents, get a local matrimonial or family lawyer to help. Think through the situation and then consult a financial planner to make sure you're protected.