Dear Penny: Can My Evil Ex-Husband of 38 Years Buy Life Insurance on Me?

Dear Penny,
My ex is a gold digger, on top of being financially rich. Our son had brain cancer for four and a half years. I took care of him his entire life from age 10, including the four and a half years of brain cancer as an adult alone.
I need to know if my ex of 38 years is legally allowed to take out an insurance policy. He was never, ever involved in our children's lives. He disappeared when our sons (twins) were 10 years old. We did not hear from him until our sons were 18.
My ex even professed to say he “did not know him” after our son was buried and my ex left. I paid for my son's life, college, funeral and burial expenses, etc. Because of this, I never had any money left over to take out a life insurance policy on any of my children or even myself.
Can I get any money from my extremely rich ex of 38 years? Can my ex of 38 years take out and collect on any life insurance policies on the twins and daughter and me?
ALL he thinks about is money. He lives in a gated Florida community where houses are $800,000 to $100 million. ALL his second wife thinks about is herself. Even at my son's funeral she thought of only herself. Is there any money or benefits from my ex for me?
-J.

Dear J.,

You’ve experienced a heartbreaking loss. I understand why you want to be sure that your ex-husband didn’t profit off the death of your son, especially since he’s led a lavish lifestyle while you struggled as a single parent.

To take out a life insurance policy on someone else, you need to have an insurable interest in their life. What this means is that you’d suffer financial harm in the event of their death. Parents are presumed to have an insurable interest in the lives of their minor children. In fact, some parents and grandparents buy whole life insurance for infants as a hybrid savings vehicle and insurance policy.

Spouses are also presumed to have an insurable interest in each other’s lives. Ex-spouses do as well in some cases. For example, some divorce decrees will require an ex-spouse to buy life insurance and make the other person the beneficiary if they’ve been ordered to pay child support or alimony. But to buy life insurance on an adult, you also need their knowledge and consent.

Essentially, here’s what all this means for you and your kids: There’s a chance your ex could have taken out life insurance on your children when they were minors. But he would have needed their permission to buy a policy on them as adults. As for you, he wouldn’t have been allowed to buy insurance on your life unless you consented to it or it was ordered as part of a divorce settlement.

There’s always the small chance your ex-husband could have taken out a fraudulent policy. If you suspect that this occurred, you can contact your state’s insurance bureau or use the MIB’s website to search for a policy in your name. (MIB is an insurance consumer reporting agency previously known as the Medical Information Bureau.)

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like you have much recourse for getting money out of your ex-husband after 38 years. But if he failed to make court-ordered child support or alimony payments, it may be worth consulting with a family attorney.

Also, since you say your ex is wealthy, you may be able to collect more Social Security based on his record, rather than your own. The fact that he has remarried is irrelevant. If your marriage lasted at least 10 years and you’re not married, this could be an option.

It doesn’t sound like you have any reason to be involved with your ex-husband if your kids are all adults. Try to limit the information you receive about him and his second wife. Resist the urge to Google them or look them up on social media if you can. What you find will only make you angry. If your children have any contact with them, you can ask that they only relay information on a need-to-know basis.

As hard as this is, I think you need to let go of any hope that this man will make you financially whole. You stepped up for your children and did the job of two parents. I hope you take pride in that.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Dear Penny: Can My Husband Stop His Brother From Stealing His Inheritance?

Dear Penny,

My husband's brother took their mother to his accountant to make sure her mutual funds, stocks and banking accounts were being taken care of and that nobody would be able to extort money from her. She is wealthy. The will stated everything was to be split equally, half and half. 

She has two homes. My husband’s brother has taken one of the homes and lets his mother-in-law reside there rent-free. 

Now my husband has discovered that his brother is 100% beneficiary to certain IRAs and insurance claims. Both my husband and his brother were adopted. They don't see eye to eye. Their mother said my husband’s brother would never not give my husband his half of his inheritance. They have avoided each other, as we didn’t hold family gatherings due to COVID-19. 

Is my husband’s brother able to keep him from his half of their inheritance? His brother has made himself the executor of the will and power of attorney, or something. 

I feel they should have gone together to the CPA. My husband won't listen to me. Am I in the wrong? 

-C.

Dear C.,

I’m not sure what you’re asking of your husband, or why you think you might be in the wrong. But I can’t imagine why your mother-in-law would leave everything to one sibling if she wanted both of her children to split things 50/50. And if your husband is counting on his brother’s goodwill to get an inheritance, he’s in for a rude awakening.

I’m also a bit confused about what role the accountant played in this situation. Typically, you’d need an attorney to draft legally binding documents, like a will or a trust.

But your mother-in-law isn’t required to split everything down the middle. In fact, she doesn’t have to leave your husband anything at all. It certainly sounds like your brother-in-law is being sketchy here. But sometimes parents have good reasons for leaving one sibling a greater share of their estate. For example, if one child cared for them in their later years or one sibling has greater needs than the others, a parent may choose not to distribute things evenly.



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It’s possible to contest a will during the probate process after someone dies, but this is an uphill battle. Usually, you’d have to prove that the person lacked the mental capacity to make or change their will, or that they signed the will because of fraud or undue influence. You can also argue that the will wasn’t properly signed or witnessed in some cases.

I should note that some of the assets you mentioned, like IRAs and life insurance policies, pass through beneficiary designation rather than probate. That means whoever is listed as the beneficiary receives them regardless of what the person’s will states.

But disputing a will is a long and expensive process. Most people who mount a challenge will lose.

A better option would be for your husband to talk directly with his mother and brother about his concerns. That means your husband will have to re-establish communication with his brother. They don’t have to become best friends, but they will need to be cordial. Sometimes parents avoid discussing estate planning with their children when they know the siblings’ relationship is strained.

I think your husband is most likely to be successful if he doesn’t approach the conversation from a position of entitlement. This isn’t about making sure he gets his half. The discussion should be about making sure they understand their mother’s wishes.

Then, your husband can suggest that his mother meet with an experienced attorney to make sure her estate plan is structured in the best way for ensuring that those wishes are carried out. I’m sure an estate planning attorney would tell your husband’s mother the pitfalls of leaving everything to one sibling in hopes that they’ll split the inheritance with the other. The attorney may also suggest appointing a more neutral party as the executor of the will.

But that will be between your mother-in-law and her attorney. It’s important to understand that any attorney’s ethical obligation in this situation is to your mother-in-law. Their job isn’t to make sure your husband or his brother get the inheritance they think they deserve.

Your husband can try to foster a discussion. He can try to make it as transparent as possible to avoid disputes with his brother. But ultimately, these aren’t your husband’s decisions. This is your mother-in-law’s money, not his. You and your husband will need to live with whatever choices she makes.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to  or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Dear Penny: My Dad Says I Owe Him $400/Month When He Retires. Is This Fair?

Dear Penny,

Within the last year as I've learned more about finances, I’ve realized that I grew up in a financially illiterate family, and so did my husband. Both of us grew up with poor but frugal parents, and our frugality has helped us manage so far. 

We have a credit card, but we pay it off every month. We've paid off our two used cars, and we pinched pennies to pay off our school loans before our two kids were born. We bought our first house in June 2020 and have a monthly payment of about $1,600, so the only debt we have is that mortgage. I am a stay-at-home parent and my husband's salary is $70,000 before taxes, insurance, etc., is taken out. We currently have about $13,600 between our checking and savings accounts, and my husband has a 401(k) through his employer with a 50% match, which we use.

But here's the rub: When I was in college, some of my financial aid fell through. I had to face the fact that I couldn't afford to go back after that summer. I was distraught because I was young and dumb and could only think about missing my friends and boyfriend (now husband). 

I don't remember how it got smoothed over, but it did. I was allowed to go back. Again, I was young and dumb and didn't give it another thought.

Much later, I learned my father took loans in his name to pay for what my financial aid didn't cover. He paid off those loans with his and my mom's retirement savings. I didn't realize this until it was already done. 

Now they are talking about retiring in the next few years. (The date keeps shifting, but currently they're talking about 2025 at the ages of 69 and 68.) They are missionaries living overseas and plan to move to the U.S. to the same state my brother and I live in.

Because they currently have about $6,000 total to their name (no debt, but no other savings), my brother — who is financially better off than I — bought a condo this year and is renting it out until my parents retire. My understanding is that he and his wife had to juggle things to make this work. But they decided this real estate investment would help fund their own retirement someday, not just provide a place for our parents to live.

My father now wants me to help pay for his and my mom's retirement since he helped pay for my college. The loans totaled $39,769, but he had to pay interest. At first he wanted us to pay back $45,000 split into monthly payments of $400 from the month they retire until the $45,000 is paid back after about 10 years or they both pass away, whichever comes first. 

Now he's saying because of inflation, he wants us to cover “about three days a month of our retirement living costs — whatever inflated dollar figure that happens to be — for the first 15 years of our retirement, or until death. Whichever comes first.” That’s a quote from his email to me. He got that figure by taking their current monthly income, averaging 21 work days a month, and dividing it by the $400 a month, which is 3.3 days of their current income.

We’ve plateaued at our current savings level since buying our house last year. I realize we have a few years to prepare for paying $400 or whatever it will be a month, but I'm at a loss for what to do or where to start. I'm also worried that we aren't saving enough for our own retirement. What if we end up with no options like my parents and hurt our own children's finances in the future? 

I've been trying to learn about bonds, Roth IRAs, and so on. I'm so overwhelmed by how little I understand. 

This isn't legal debt, but I still owe my parents. They won't be able to live in retirement without my paying them back. My brother has already done so much by preparing housing and a used car for them. I can't ask him for more. Plus, it's my fault my parents don't have retirement savings, not my brother's.

Can you please help me decide what our next steps should be? Do we hire a financial planner to give us custom guidance? Do I need to read books and take classes to understand how to manage all of this since Google results are going over my head? 

I’m considering taking a part-time job so its entire income can go toward paying back my parents, but I don't know if that's the right move either. I can't work full time right now because our kids are elementary-age, and paying for childcare would eat up nearly the whole salary.

And don't get me started on my in-laws, who live in a different state. My father-in-law is incarcerated. My mother-in-law is living on only Social Security in my sister-in-law’s apartment. My sister-in-law is single with two elementary-aged kids and is working full time while trying to earn a teaching degree. We are wealthy compared to that side of the family. We want to help them too, but we feel stuck!

-Overwhelmed

Dear Overwhelmed,

It’s not your fault that your parents can’t afford to retire. Responsibility for that rests on your parents’ shoulders.

The money your dad paid for these loans would certainly be helpful to your parents. But it’s unlikely that $45,000 would have been enough to buy a comfortable retirement, even if your parents had left it invested.



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If your dad intended for you to pay back the loans for your college, he should have discussed that with you at the time. But I’m not sure that this was actually his intention back then. It sounds like your parents are panicked as their retirement is approaching. Now they’re going back and trying to stick you with part of the tab, plus a nonsense inflation adjustment.

Your problem isn’t financial illiteracy. You and your husband are doing a fine job of managing your money. The problem is that a $70,000 paycheck only goes so far. Your husband makes enough to cover your family of four. But that’s not enough to pay for your parents’ retirement or your in-laws’ needs.

I don’t think you should agree to help out your parents just yet. That doesn’t mean you’re vowing to never help them out. But you need to focus on your own savings first. Since you have two young children and you’re dependent solely on your husband’s income, building up a six-month emergency fund on top of retirement savings should be the primary goal.

You can be honest here: Tell your parents that you’re not currently in a position to pay $400 a month, and you don’t know if you will be in 2025. Say that you’re grateful for their sacrifices. But make it clear that you didn’t know they were raiding retirement accounts to pay for your education.

What you should avoid is giving your parents a full accounting of your finances. Expect every piece of info you provide about your income and obligations to be used to make the case that they need your money more than you do. Don’t give them that leverage. “I’m not in a position to give you $400 a month and I’m not sure if I will be four years from now” is sufficient.

Knowing that their daughter isn’t a guaranteed source of retirement income can help guide their financial decisions over the next few years. Regardless of whether you choose to help out later on, don’t base this decision on the level of support your brother is providing. This is about what you and your family are willing and able to give.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Dear Penny: Did My Husband Betray Me by Giving Our Broke Daughter Our Car?

Dear Penny,

My husband and I had a four-wheel drive pickup. He bought this vehicle unseen in 2017. The car lot drove it to our house, all without my input. We had it for one year. In that time, our payments were $513 a month.  

 

In that year he kept trying to get rid of his truck. Fast-forward to now. He made a deal to sell it to a car dealer without me. Then he bought a different car. Of course I wasn’t happy about it, but it did take our interest down and the payment to $230 per month. 

 

Our daughter got a check for $1,400 and wanted him to help her find a car, but her credit wasn’t good enough to get one. She was upset and crying. So unbeknownst to me, he sold her our car for $500 down and had her take over payments. 

 

We have been married for 48 years. I was LIVID that he didn’t have the guts to talk to me about it and told me on a phone call with everyone there. I am mad and hurt over this. I feel betrayed. My daughter just about ruined our credit because our names were on the title of her past vehicle. Now he does the same thing AGAIN!! 

 

He trusted her to make payments that will end up being $430 with the other money she owes us. Am I right to be so hurt and betrayed?

-Livid Wife

Dear Livid,

Your husband made at least three big financial decisions without your consent. So the answer to your question is, yes, you have every reason to feel betrayed. But focusing on whether you have a right to feel a certain way doesn’t get you anywhere.

You need to focus on mitigating the damage from your husband’s latest decision. Your daughter clearly has a history of not making payments, so your husband has put your credit at risk again.

More importantly, you need to get it across to your husband that making big decisions unilaterally is not OK.



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The best way to protect your finances from your daughter is to have her make payments directly to you. Then, you can directly make the payment to the lender. At the very least, you need to have access to the account so you can confirm that your daughter is actually making payments.

Unfortunately, the reality of helping someone who isn’t creditworthy is that there’s a high likelihood you won’t get repaid. So you’ll need to budget with the assumption that you won’t get that $430 each month. If your names are still on the title, that’s actually a good thing because you can take back the car if your daughter fails to make payments.

The bigger challenge is communicating with your husband, particularly if he’s gotten used to being the sole decision maker in your 48 years of marriage. You need to have a frank discussion with him about how you handle money matters before he makes another big decision without involving you.

Tell your husband that you feel hurt and betrayed, and explain how his actions affect you. Ask him why he feels that he can’t talk over these matters with you. The key here is to be proactive and talk about this before he makes another big decision.

A couple of things in your letter — like the fact that he was swayed by your daughter’s tears into giving over the car keys and then told you by phone instead of in person — make me think that he may be the type who doesn’t like conflict. If you think that’s the case, make it clear that avoiding tough discussions is causing way more conflict. But if your husband doesn’t involve you out of arrogance, your problem will be a lot harder to solve.

The ideal solution would be for the two of you to agree that you won’t make a purchase above a certain amount without consulting each other. That way, you’re not nitpicking each other over minor spending, but you’re not making financial decisions that substantially affect the other spouse. Schedule a time to review your spending each month. You should also discuss any big expenses or purchases you have coming up.

This isn’t going to be an easy pattern to fix, particularly if it’s persisted throughout the past 48 years. But your husband needs an impetus to change. Otherwise, this cycle will continue and your feelings of hurt and betrayal will only compound.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@thepennyhoarder.com or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Dear Penny: Can My Boyfriend Sue Me for His Big Sacrifice if We Break up?

Dear Penny,

I am going to be starting nursing school in January 2022 and have a question about potential future obligations to my boyfriend. He has offered to drive me to all of my school obligations until my license is restored in May 2022. My alternative would be to pay for a ride-share which could cost $2,000 or more per month. 

 

This is obviously very generous and I am deeply appreciative. He will be making large sacrifices of his time to help me with this.

 

Our relationship is great, and I don’t see that changing. We’ve even talked about getting married, but that would not happen until after nursing school. (We both graduate at almost the same time.) 

 

I know that pre-written agreements in a marriage can be helpful in situations like this in case of separation. I’m trying to be responsible not knowing the future. If he and I do break up, would I have any legal responsibility to compensate him for his help? If so, is there an agreement we can make beforehand to avoid that unlikely scenario?

 

-Nervous Nursing Student

Dear Nervous,

It’s impossible to plan for every nightmare scenario that could occur during a breakup. I think you’re on pretty safe turf accepting your boyfriend’s generosity, though.

Typically, couples need a written agreement when significant assets or debt is involved. For unmarried couples buying a house together, for example, a legally binding agreement is a must. You’d want a domestic partnership agreement that spells out who would get to stay in the home and how you’d manage any related debts if you broke up. But unless your boyfriend has asked you to sign a contract spelling out his compensation for being your chauffeur, it would be tough for him to sue you for his services in the event that the two of you split.



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What I’d worry more about is the toll that this arrangement will take on your relationship. It sounds like you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the car together if paying for ride-shares would cost you $2,000 a month. That may sound peachy right now. But it may be a different story after a couple of months, particularly if you’re both exhausted from studying.

In deciding whether to accept this offer from your boyfriend, think about what it will cost him not just in terms of money, but also time. If he wouldn’t be going that far out of his way, riding along with him seems like a no-brainer. But if he’d be spending a couple hours each day driving you around while trying to complete his own studies, relying on him for 100% of your transportation needs probably won’t be a great option.

Fortunately, this doesn’t seem like an all-or-nothing decision. You can accept your boyfriend’s offer, but also set aside some money so you can give him a break when he needs it.

Instead of budgeting $2,000 a month for ride-sharing, maybe you can set aside several hundred dollars a month. You can use that money to pay for an Uber or stay in a motel that’s close to your campus from time to time. Once you start school, you might also want to ask around to see if any classmates live near you. Perhaps they’d be willing to let you hitch a ride in exchange for gas money. Regardless, be sure to throw some gas money your boyfriend’s way.

Your boyfriend sounds like a good guy, given his willingness to sacrifice for you. It also sounds like you’re appropriately grateful to him. Whenever possible, try to show that gratitude by freeing up his time in other ways. For example, you could cook for him or do extra household chores if you live together.

This situation may be tough, but it’s only temporary. But if you communicate clearly and find alternative options so your boyfriend can prioritize his needs when he’s short on time, I think you’ll be able to make this work.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to  or chat with her in The Penny Hoarder Community.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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