The Moneyist: I sold my home to move into my husband’s fixer upper. My name is not on the deed. Will his daughter get his house if he dies?


Dear Quentin,

I live in New Jersey. My husband and I have been married for 15 years. We have no children from our marriage. However, we both have adult children.

I sold my home to move into his fixer upper. My name is not on the deed, however; we have paid homeowners loans and insurances jointly. Everything is paid in full. 

I remodeled the home over the past 15 years, and I am currently paying for another remodeling project of the kitchen. He is doing the work with all new appliances.

“‘‘I remodeled the home over the past 15 years, and I am currently paying for another remodeling project of the kitchen.’”

My fear is that his daughter may have rights to ownership of the marital home if he passes before me and that he could change his will; she has contributed nothing.

He had a will when we first married, and to my knowledge, he hasn’t changed it. We agreed that the will clearly should clearly state that we each assume everything.

However, I asked him to add my name to the deed. He refused. This is a second marriage for both of us. He said that he never wants to be put out of his home.

Well, neither do I! His daughter is not married, and not as well off financially as my daughter. Should I be concerned? 

Second Wife

Dear Second,

I have good news — and some tough love. Let’s start with the latter. It will, I hope, make you appreciate the silver lining in your finances all the more.

Your first mistake was to sell your home, and give up the appreciation in that property over the last 15 years, especially as you did that based on a promise.

If you were to pool your assets and give up your home, it would have made more sense to put both your names on the deed of your marital home. 

Your husband can make a will leaving you his home, but he can also change that at a moment’s notice, or say he’ll make such a will and, instead, do nothing.

No one — husband or wife — should give up their hard-won financial independence when entering a marriage, and agree to an unequal balance of power. 

“Your first mistake was to sell your home, and give up the appreciation in that property, especially as you did that based on a promise.”

New Jersey is one of nine community-property states. Everything acquired before the marriage, therefore, is treated under the law as separate property.

Similarly, assets acquired during the marriage are regarded as marital property. Your husband’s fixer upper was separate property.

However, the fact that you used your money and/or a joint account to pay the mortgage and remodel this home value likely commingles that property. 

So what can you do now? Keep the receipts and bank transactions, and talk to a lawyer privately about your finances and marital assets. 

This is a good lesson for anyone entering into a marriage. Ideally, you should feel safe and secure in your marriage till death — or divorce — do you part.

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

My married sister is helping herself to our parents’ most treasured possessions. How do I stop her from plundering their home?
My mom had my grandfather sign a trust leaving millions of dollars to two grandkids, shunning everyone else
My brother’s soon-to-be ex-wife is embezzling money from their business. How do we find hidden accounts?
‘Grandma recently passed away, leaving behind a 7-figure estate. Needless to say, things are getting messy’

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