‘I’ve sacrificed my career’: My husband and I may divorce soon, but he will inherit $1 million. How do I make sure I get half?

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I have been married for eight years. My husband and I have had our ups and downs, as most married couples do. We got married young — he was 26 and I was 25 — which was probably not the best idea, as we had only known each other about a year and a half. We’ve both changed, not always for the better, and we’re now very different people. 

We have one child. I’ve sacrificed my career and have shouldered most of the responsibility for our child, working part time for a while. He plays golf. I stay home. He gets a promotion. I take our child to birthday parties and after-school activities. 

‘Do I hang on until he inherits this money? Don’t I deserve some of this inheritance at least? I would like to start again with some kind of security.’ 

We are so used to being in an unhappy marriage that it has become our way of life, our normal. We’ve talked about the future, and we’ve talked around the fact that we may have a future separately, and I have privately thought a lot about divorce. If I’m honest, I have not been happy for more than half of the time we have been together. Having a child two years after we got married merely put us in a holding pattern. 

His only remaining parent is in ill health, and when his father eventually passes away, he expects to inherit about $1 million or more. 

I feel like I have given so much. 

Do I hang on until he inherits this money? Don’t I deserve some of this inheritance at least? I would like to start again with some kind of security. If we remained married, would this inheritance be his and his alone? Is there a way to make sure that does not happen? I know this makes me sound like I am a gold digger, but I’m not.

I just want to walk away from this marriage with enough money to start again, especially given the backseat my career has taken to allow me to take care of our child, while he has gone from strength to strength.

Ready for a New Life in Arizona

Dear Ready,

You deserve 100% happiness and 50% of the community property — that’s the money you both earned and the property you acquired throughout your marriage, which includes your home. Let’s also hope your child remains 100% healthy and happy. 

It will be hard to start again. Divorce is devastating. It will cut your finances in half at least and make your financial life more challenging — you will have to find a place to live, assuming you don’t stay in the family home, and you’ll share custody, which will involve at least some single parenting while you work. 

Your husband should, if you are still married at the time of his inheritance, seek legal counsel, especially if your marriage is coming to an end. That’s not something you are likely to advise him to do, and I don’t blame you for that. There is no blame here: only feelings of resentment, regret about roads not taken and a sense of unfairness that after the time you have put into childrearing at the expense of your career, your husband will walk away with a career you might have had and an extra $1 million to boot.

If he used a portion of that $1 million to upgrade your home or pay for joint expenses, or even deposited it in a joint bank account, it would likely become commingled. 

If your husband wished to keep his inheritance separate, assuming he was not expecting an imminent divorce, he could and should put it in a separate bank account or, even better, a living trust to prevent it from being commingled with your marital assets. That legal process of commingling, known as transmutation, would be good for you but bad for him. If he used a portion of that $1 million to upgrade your home or pay for joint expenses, or even deposited it in a joint bank account, it would likely become commingled. 

It might make sense for you to stay married until you hit the 10-year mark. “If you are age 62 or older and were married to your ex for at least 10 years, you may be able to collect monthly payments equivalent to about one-third to one-half of your former spouse’s Social Security benefit,” according to the AARP. “Divorced people can receive survivor benefits of 71.5% to 100% of the late former spouse’s benefit amount, depending on your age when you claim.” But those rules only apply if you don’t remarry.

You have a choice to make. You can stay married in the hopes that your husband inherits this $1 million and — by hook or by crook — commingles it in your marital funds. But this choice is not entirely advisable. His father may live another 10 years. Let’s hope he does and also has a good quality of life. 

Women continue to make more sacrifices in a marriage to take care of children, something that’s supported by a lot of data. But I urge you to own the choices you have made up until this point, too.

“To avail of your husband’s Social Security benefits, it might make sense for you to stay married until you hit the 10-year mark, assuming you don’t remarry.”


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Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. 

By emailing your questions, you agree to have them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Co., the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

I’m 64, disabled, lost everything in my divorce, and only earn $28,000. How do I avoid financial ruin?

‘I just don’t have a clue where to start’: Where should I invest my $50,000 life savings right now?

‘She says it’s not fair’: My wife will retire at 62, and I’ll be ready at 59. We have $5 million. Am I being lazy?

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Las Vegas News Magazine

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