My 42-year-old only child married a woman 12 years ago.
She is selfish, a hermit, and extremely passive-aggressive. I don’t know why my intelligent son remains married. She has alienated ALL his friends and family. My daughter-in-law never attends family events. She has an 18-year-old disabled daughter who is very friendly. I’ve treated her as though she is my flesh and blood.
My husband of 43 years passed away this past year. There will be a substantial amount of money in my estate (if all goes to plan) when I die. My son makes an excellent living and will not need any money from me. However, I don’t want him to be hurt. I don’t want any money or items to go to my daughter-in-law.
How can I give him at least some money, with the rest going to charity, without it ending up in my daughter-in-law’s hands? My granddaughter — as I call her — cannot take money because she is extremely disabled, and the state pays her medical bills. She will never be able to work. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Feeling Very Alone & Sad
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People enter into relationships for all sorts of reasons and, despite the fact that you believe your daughter-in-law is bad for your husband, he chose her.
Even assuming her behavior changed over the years for the worse, he remains married. He gets something out of it — enough for him to stay in the marriage. You can ask him, “Are you happy?” Or express that you sometimes feel like he doesn’t get to see his old friends enough. But you can’t live his life for him.
Without a prenuptial or, indeed, a postnuptial agreement, you can set up a trust for your son. The trust can specify how your son receives the money — as an income rather than a lump sum, for instance — and can also be used for specific purposes (for the long-term care of his stepdaughter should she need more care, or simply for your son’s expenses). This may be preferable than a lump sum that could accidentally (or not) be commingled as marital property.
Some people put their actual homes in a trust in the event they predecease their adult children. “You can also be a beneficiary and serve as the trustee,” according to the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo . “When you pass away, the property can remain in the trust for your adult child’s benefit or pass to him or her according to the trust terms. The home would not be part of the probate estate and therefore, would not be part of the probate process.”
Check the rules in your state as to whether gifts are considered community or separate property. Inheritance is generally considered separate property unless it’s deposited in a joint bank account or, for example, the money is used to renovate the family home. Laws vary by state. In Tennessee, for example, gifts are generally considered separate property, but gifts are considered community property in New York .
Under the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014 (ABLE Act), you could also establish a tax-favored ABLE account to cover qualified disability expenses of your step granddaughter named as the designated account beneficiary; the annual contribution limit equals the annual federal gift tax exclusion, and only cash contributions are allowed. Here’s what you need to know about how ABLE accounts work, per MarketWatch’s Tax Guy.
In the meantime, the healthier relationship you have with your daughter-in-law, the more access you will have to your family. It’s hard to let go of resentments, perceived slights and opinions formed over a long period of time, but even difficult people have good qualities, if we seek them. She may be a good mother or wife, even if she’s not sociable or an extrovert — and her reserve may have everything to do with her own pain and upbringing, and nothing to do with you.
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