Marrying into DINKS

by Kristina on October 22, 2010 · 14 comments

My father is getting re-married next year.  Although I am less than thrilled about his decision, at the end of the day it is his choice.

This past week I had a conversation with my Dad about our joint finances and his new family. I politely reminded him not to forget about his original family while he is busy planning his new family.  My soon to be step mother has a lot of financial, as well as emotional baggage that she brings into the relationship with my Dad. She has 2 adult children who are both older than my sister Tara and I.  They are both financially dependent on their mother, even though they are in their late 30’s and early 40’s.

I currently have a joint bank account with my father, and he is a joint beneficiary with my boyfriend Nick on my life insurance.  I am rethinking my current life insurance beneficiaries as well as my joint account with my Dad.  If something should ever happen to my Dad, I don’t want the money to go to his new wife. Mainly, I don’t want her to get the money because I feel she is money hungry and controlling and possessive. But mostly, I don’t want my estate money to go to my Dad’s new wife because it will support her two adult children.

How can I ask my Dad about his will without seeming that I am only concerned about his money?

My soon to be step mothers name is Victoria, and she is weird about money. She and my Dad definitely have different financial strategies; and they do not see eye to eye when it comes to money.  She is very well organized in her daily life, but very irresponsible with money. My Dad is the type of person who will offer someone $20 if they need it without asking to be repaid.  However, Victoria will only lend someone money if the repayment arrangements are signed and dated.  My Dad often buys household items and never demands repayment.  However, when Victoria buys items she insists that every single dime be repaid on time.

She is obsessed with money, and with winning. I feel that if something ever happened to my Dad we would be in a fight over his estate. She feels that she has the right to everything which is totally untrue. She may be his current girlfriend, but Tara and I are his family. Victoria is the kind of person who would disobey someone’s final wishes if he benefited her financially.

How can I tell my Dad I don’t want money going to her without directly showing my disapprovement for their upcoming nuptials?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sacha Chua October 22, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I hate to be unsupportive, but I think you might be veering into stepchildzilla territory here.

You can change the beneficiary on your life insurance policy. That’s your business. Your dad’s will is his business, though. You can express your concerns, but it’s hard to do that without putting him in the position of having to choose between you and his soon-to-be wife. If she’s as controlling as you say she is, that will lead to more tension between them. You might not approve of their relationship, but there’s a difference between being a little distant and making it harder for them to be happy.

You can encourage your dad to think about his will so that he can make sure his wishes are clear, and look into a pre-nuptial agreement or a marriage contract as well if he wants to protect his current finances. For example, in Ontario, if a married person dies intestate, the current spouse gets a preferential share of $200,000 of the estate and about a third of anything beyond $200,000, and the rest is evenly distributed among children, not including stepchildren, unless they’re adopted. (This is based on my non-lawyerly research into the Family Law Act etc. when I was helping put together our recent marriage contract.) So while she’s free to support her children using her share, by default, you still get a chunk, although it’s a smaller chunk than hers (and only kicks in if the estate is large enough for that kind of division).

(Interestingly enough, if he acts in loco parentis for his step-children, he may be on the hook for support payments for them in case he and his new wife split up.)

How can you tell your dad you don’t want money going to her – which probably feels like you don’t want _any_ money going to her? That’s harsh. I can’t imagine a situation where you’d marry someone, cut them out of your will entirely, and not have repercussions. If he’s got the backbone to not give in if she asks him to leave everything to her (unless she gives good reasons), then it’s just a matter of proportions. (If he does, ah well; life is unfair, although you might be able to contest wills if they seemed signed under duress.)

If you’re worried about Victoria hiding or contesting the will, make sure you know the lawyer who has a copy, and that all the is are dotted and the ts are crossed. That means certificates of independent legal counsel for marriage contracts, a lawyer handling the will, and so on.

The best approach, I think, is the one my parents picked: they told us not to expect any inheritance. No fighting, no ill will. If you’re financially independent and not counting on the inheritance, then any gift is a bonus. While an inheritance may ease your loss and be a nice way to turbocharge your personal finances, it’s not worth destroying relationships over. Take the high road, keep a great relationship with your dad so that other people can’t demonize you, and be open to a good relationship with your soon-to-be step-mom. (Who knows, maybe she picked up her obsession with accounting because she was more relaxed in her previous marriage and all heck broke loose.)

2 jon_snow October 22, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Is is me or is a joint account with a parent a bit strange? How did that come about?

3 Kristina October 22, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I understand that I may be coming off as the psycho step child (to be) however, this has been brewing for some time and it’s finally all exploding. Blogging is a healthy outlet for me. It allows me to see how other people view the situation and help me try to deal with my evil step witch to be. I appreciate all feedback and comments.

I have a joint account with my Dad because we live in different cities and it’s easy (and cheap) for us to transfer money back and forth. I.e. birthdays, vacation gifts, etc. We only see each other 2-3 times per year and it eliminates the mailing delays of checks and the bank fees for bank drafts and certified checks.

4 Tim October 22, 2010 at 8:10 pm

sounds like you should have a living revocable trust and set up your will to ensure that she does not get it. the joint accounts with your dad you should liquidate before they get married.

5 jon_snow October 22, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Sorry if I came across as insensitivein my last post… I really do love the blog, as my wife and I could very well be the poster children for the DINK lifestyle… at 38 we have amassed a net worth of about 1.2 million (450k cash/investments, 750k real estate).

This quite simply would not have been possible if we had children. We are extreme savers (5k per month) and retiring in our mid 40’s is more important than raising offspring to adulthood. It just seems a natural choice to us… I guess we lack a parenting “gene”.

6 jen October 23, 2010 at 3:44 pm

I think that you realize that his money is HIS money. He can do whatever he wants with it & it’s not automatically yours if he dies. I don’t think that children should automatically assume that they are going to get their parents money when they die.

Focus on your relationship with your Dad, that’s what really matters. You won’t care about the money when he dies, you’ll care more about the memories.

7 Namube October 24, 2010 at 5:51 am

Dear Kristina,

Maybe this is the first time you will encounter your father. If this is so, it will be hard for both you and your father. Good luck!

From your post, I can speculate that your step mother has a Narcissistic personality. If that is the case, your father will drain financially and emotionally very soon. When the time comes, you should be ready for him, not for his money (if there is left!), but only for him.

8 Donna Freedman October 25, 2010 at 5:04 pm

“I feel that if something ever happened to my Dad we would be in a fight over his estate. She feels that she has the right to everything which is totally untrue.”
Allow me to point out, respectfully, that NO ONE has the right to his estate. If he chooses to leave it all to Heifer International that would be his business. Not his wife’s. Not his kids’. She would have a claim on things they’d bought together, probably (I’m no lawyer) but if he had a chunk of cash/investments that was all his and/or spelled out in a prenup, he can leave it to whomever he pleases.
It might be best to close that joint account. If you transfer money back and forth for only a few special occasions a year, then the bank fees et al. shouldn’t add up to much. Certainly they would be worth the peace of mind you’d feel if you weren’t worried about her getting what actually *is* some of your money.
“How can I tell my Dad I don’t want money going to her without directly showing my disapprovement for their upcoming nuptials?”
I think it would be acceptable for you to voice concerns about their very different approaches to money, i.e., you are afraid that he will wind up doing the financial heavy lifting in the relationship. But once you’ve said that, you’re done — because if he chooses to shoulder more of the load that’s his choice, too. Not yours.

9 Becky October 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm

Girlfriend –
I feel for you. Only, my dad had bio-children with said evil-step mother. So, now all of his focus is on his “new” family. I have totally written him off in any financial capacity. I am kind to him, but I get too stressed out when I even attempt to consider their financial situation. (She makes buku money, and forced him into stay-at-home-fatherhood).
Basically, I pity the man. He’s 57 and taking care of 2 under 10 yr old kids. He should have been in his prime, but she drove it out of him.

His life makes me thankful for my choice not to have children. I just might leave my own entire estate to charity.

10 Kristina October 28, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Becky, I understand exactly what you are going through. Why do men let themselves get trapped with witches like this? It’s frusturatingm and it’s annoying that my Dad feels that if we don’t talk about it, it will go away and we will magically just all get along…Not in this lifetime.

I like it that you are still kind to your father, whereas I am currently not talking with mine. Hopefully things will work out over time.

11 Stacey October 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm

My father re-married as well and has left everything to my stepmother in case something happens to him and I feel that that is his right. I don’t think that it is my role to be judge, jury, and executioner over how he and his new wife handle their finances. As a parent, he did what he could to make sure I had a good childhood and helped me as much as he could with college expenses. I’m grateful for everything he has done for me and do not expect anything more in the future. Of course I would be there for him if he needed my help in the future (and know that he would likewise help me in an emergency). I find it sad that you are not talking with your father. Your terms of dealing with him seem conditional on that he consults with you on everything and follows your advice. I wonder how you would feel if he placed the same ultimatums on how you and your boyfriend deal with your finances and expected you to do whatever he mandated. I also wonder if your interactions with your father has had some impact on how your boyfried views marriage.

12 Squirrelers May 27, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I stumbled onto this topic today, though I realize it’s a long time from the original post date. So, I’m not sure what has transpired in the situation since then.

That said, I don’t agree with the point of view of many of the other commenters, and actually strongly support your view on this.

In my view, kids come first before a 2nd spouse – in terms of money earned up until the date of remarriage. Everything earned and saved so far ought to go to the kids (not new wife’s kids, no offense but they’re not deserving) – not the 2nd wife. Now, money earned after the date of marriage is a different story. With that, it’s open to their decision. But money earned to date should go to you and siblings.

Maybe I’m different than the crowd here, but I just can’t imagine making someone you’ve just met the top beneficiary for your life savings while pushing your own adult kids down in the pecking order. There ought to be a prenup spelling things out that you and any siblings you may have would share in any distribution of his premarital assets and NOT the 2nd wife or her family..

Note that I’m not advocating entitlement here. Rather, I’m advocating fair prioritization.

That said, the outcome is under your Dad’s control, but I hope that common sense prevails here. I feel for you in this case. Hopefully there has been some positive progress in this story since the orginal post!

13 Kristina May 31, 2011 at 7:01 pm

The only thing that I can say has happened since this post is that my family situation has definitely got worse and the relationship with my Dad has deteriorated. It’s too bad but it is totally his choice to choose her over his family. It’s the wrong choice, but nevertheless it is his choice.

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