Dating While Widowed: Yours and Mine and Adult Kids

The latest post at Abel Keogh’s Running Forward Widower Wednesday talks about pre-nups, wills and adult kids who can’t wrap their minds around the idea that their parents’ “wealth” belongs to their parents and not them.

I ran across this a lot at Ye Olde Widow board. People who were fine with idea of remarriage but adamant that their late spouse’s hard-earned this or that would never, ever, ever benefit in any way, shape or form the next spouse or, goddess in heaven forbid, his/her worthless children. A whole lot of assumption but basically stemming from the odd notion that what your late spouse might have left you in the form of life insurance, marital home or other valuables is somehow still his or hers.

When you die, you don’t take it with you. Not even in spirit. What happens, or is accumulated on earth, stays on earth. Furthermore, it becomes the property of someone else, who is now free to do whatever the hell they want with it. And trust me, they will. I have seldom witnessed someone inherit from a parent or grandparent and not piss the money away like trailer trash with a PowerBall jackpot.

As my late husband lay in the intensive care before being moved to hospice, his mother sent her best friend to query me about life insurance. How much? I was asked. And because I was completely stunned that anyone would ask such a question at such a time, I told her. Absolutely nothing.

It wasn’t until much later – after mother-in-law absconded with money from the memorial that was meant to help cover the expense of it – that I realized the inquiry about life insurance was about calculating her cut.

You would be amazed – or maybe not – by the people who truly believe that inheritance is a given and have their hands out sometimes way in advance of your death.

A sizable proportion of adult children are like this. They see their parents and grandparents as some sort of long-range saving plan. A way to pay off the mortgage, plump up retirement plans or just have a wad of cash to fritter away on vacations and material crap.

Second marriages make these kinds of people – nervous. They have visions of “their” inheritances being used frivolously by step-parents for outrageous things like … eating or paying the property tax and keeping a roof over their elderly heads.

So, the topic today is when you remarry, do you have a financial plan in place to make sure that in the event of your death your new spouse doesn’t end up homeless while your kids vacation in Tahiti?

Yeah, yeah. Their mommy or daddy would have wanted you to put your new spouse at the mercy of your greedy kids because after all, she or he worked themselves to death for the money that was left to you.

Except that they didn’t.

They took out that life insurance or built up the retirement plan to take care of you. You. Not your grown up kids, who you should have been taught well enough to be able to pay their own bills, save for their own retirement and goodies. You.

Money we inherit is no longer anyone’s money but ours.

Yes, we have an obligation to use it for the benefit of our minor children and to see that our very young adult children find a good footing in life, but at some point our kids get old. Really old. Sometimes as old as we were when we were widowed in the first place. They are adults who mostly ignore our advice in favor of what works best for them, and they build their own adult lives with their own spouses and their own kids. And if we did a good job raising them, they really shouldn’t be running to us with their hands out – ever.

But there are emergencies, you cry.

Yes, I would agree, but inheritance doesn’t fall into that category. Inheritance is a form of expectation based upon nothing more than the notion that because you sired or birthed them, they are entitled to some sort of monetary reward triggered by your death.

It’s wonderful when we can leave our kids, or grandkids, a little something, or even a lot of something, but we should shy far away from leading them to expect this from us. Or from giving them the impression that it is their due. It’s not owed to them because they merely exist.

Plenty of perfectly wonderful parents spend every last dime before they die. On themselves even! And sometimes they need that money because they get sick or have other pressing expenses.

Some parents and grandparents even leave their “fortunes” to charity or endowments or to people that aren’t even blood relations!

NOTHING good comes from adult children who’ve been led to believe that the money daddy left you is also theirs. Zero good. Refrain mightily from going there because even if you don’t remarry, it’s going to be a big ugly thorn in your side when you hit a certain age, and they start counting chickens they think you are overspending. You don’t ever want your 50 year old child questioning your need to take a trip or buy a new pair of boots or go out to lunch every Tuesday with your friends because it’s eating up the money you should be saving to leave him/her.

I am not exaggerating. Countless seniors live with harpy adult children who view all things mom/dad as eventually their things.

The best way to avoid tantrums from adult kids if you should decide to remarry is to not have even given your children cause to believe they have the right to question you on the subject of remarriage and to never have intimated that they are somehow entitled to an inheritance.

But if you haven’t done either, there is still hope. You can tell them now.

You should also make sure that you and your future spouse have thoroughly discussed all matters money. It’s helpful to have an idea of what you want your wills to look like in terms of what goes to whom and how you each plan to care for the other in the event of incapacitating illness and death. If there are assets or minor children that need special considerations, discuss and plan for that too.

Communication, as I have said before, is key. KEY.

Don’t be that elderly woman who is living in a house owned by her step-children who are just waiting for her to die so they can sell it.

Conversely, don’t be that old man whose late wife’s jewelry ended up in the hands of his second wife’s daughter-in-law because it wasn’t specified in the will that it should go to his granddaughter.

If it ‘s important then it is important enough to discuss and plan for IN WRITING and preferably with the assistance of a lawyer.

But just in case you can’t let go of the idea that procreation has saddled you with the task of scrimping, saving and leaving something to your grown up kids so they can enjoy a better retirement than you will, there are options like life insurance policies and trusts.

However, if you remarry, your primary concern should be your spouse. Leaving him or her to simply fend for themselves in their advancing years is so cold and harsh that it amazes me that people who would do this even find someone to marry again at all. What self-respecting person signs willingly to be accused of being a gold-digger and ends up on cat food and public assistance so their step-children can one day  indulge themselves on eBay?

Let’s sum up.

Money matters. Children do have the right to heirlooms. Second wives and husbands shouldn’t be at the financial mercy of step-kids when you are gone.

Talk, talk and talk some more about this before remarrying. Don’t include your kids! It’s not their business. Better yet, avoid raising your kids to feel entitled to enrich themselves via your death.

And finally. consult a financial planner or estate planner or lawyer or anyone who can walk you through the realities of what your new spouse will need by way of assets when you die. You might be surprised to find out that what you thought about money and second marriages and death isn’t at all what reality is.

15 thoughts on “Dating While Widowed: Yours and Mine and Adult Kids

    1. No, I haven’t. I have just run out of things to say. I am thinking about starting a new blog about my life in Canadian – the journey to becoming a Canadian, current events history and just random everyday stuff. I will post a link when I have that set up. Right now, I am terribly swamped with studies, kid stuff and my foray into politics (and no, Canada isn’t utopia in that respect). I am also writing a novel. And I took up watercolour! Wow, I am beginning to sound more interesting than I am.

      Hope all is well with you.

  1. Hi Ann. I’m just checking in. I think of you and check here periodically. I realize looking back that it’s been a year since you posted. Are you writing elsewhere? Hope all is well ~ Sharon

    1. I am around. Just not blogging. Not yet anyway. When I do, I will post a link. I think this venue has run its course.

      See that your family is expanding. Nice. Hope everything is good.

  2. Thank you for writing this blog. I am a widow about to get re-married and I’ve never indicated to my kids that my money will be theirs. However, my fiance has to his only son in the past. I agree 100%, kids should never be told to expect anything, you should raise them to take care of themselves, that is the goal of parenting. I had always planned to go to an Estate planner before I marry and your blog sure did confirm this. Yes, Open communication is the key! Thank you!

    1. Thank you. I really think that all couples, regardless of whether or not they’ve been married before, would benefit from sitting down and hammering out the finances before marrying. Too many just drift into it and expectations clash or one of them ends up hurt, disappointed, angry or a combo of all.

      Money, like sex, how or if to raise kids and in-laws, should be topics you can discuss freely without feeling judged or being embarrassed. There really shouldn’t be topics that you feel might break a relationship because they are simply brought up.

      Parenting in a blended family though is tricky when the “kids” in question are nearly or all grown up. You can’t parent retroactively and undo things your partner and his wife did that you would never have done. You are somewhat limited by the playing field as is. However, I don’t think it is ever too late to tell your adult children that the rules of engagement have changed and they need to man up and deal.

      Congrats on your up-coming wedding and the best of luck to you both!

      1. My husband took a lot of criticism from the LW’s family about the will when she died. They all are very wealthy and were more angry that he used one of those fill in the blank wills and everything was left to him, with nothing left to their daughters nor other relatives nor the numerous charities the LW worked with. With the amount of money that was involved, typically a lawyer would be involved.

        He feels very guilty that he didn’t encourage her to have a lawyer draw up a will (the one she had was done very quickly before she had surgery when she first became ill), so he feels like he has to correct that by setting up the trust for the girls, and avoid anything that seems like he did it for his own personal gain.

        He says he would like to help pay for my granddaughter’s college, but he can’t afford it. Yet, there’s nothing stopping him from touching the trust. He can withdraw money from it, sell stock, whatever he wants before he dies.

        Instead it will sit there all because he wants to avoid people who hate him thinking anything negative about him.

        1. Guilt is a huge thing, but he needn’t feel responsible for the will. It was his LW’s responsibility to have a will set up. I am sure that she probably had ample years to do it and if it was that important to her, she would have.

          It’s funny how we worry most about the opinions of people who never liked us and never will more than the opinions and needs of those who mean most to us and love us. I know it took me a while to stop worrying about my LH’s mother’s opinion. I worried that by simply doing what I needed to do I was giving her actual proof that I was the person she tells everyone I am. It was nonsense, but it’s not uncommon for people to feel that way.

          Maybe one day your husband will be able to see that he really isn’t making things better by catering to the hatred of people who never gave him a chance anyway.

  3. This is so difficult with my widower and his LW, since her family was very wealthy and she inherited a very large sum of money from her grandfather. She never worked, but she didn’t need to. The down payment on their home was paid for 100% by the LW after she inherited money from her great uncle.

    Since the LW and my husband had joint finances, her will simply gave everything to her husband. The problem is their two teenage daughters. My husband set up a trust and placed everything he inherited from the LW in the trust, which includes the house. The trust goes to their daughters.

    The LW’s family has called me a gold-digger to my face, but that isn’t exactly a surprise since they also accused my husband of marrying the LW for her money as well.

    I can see their point of view that it’s unfair that the two daughters inherited nothing from their mother. They’re able to take any of her possessions that they want, but the millions in stock went to their father only.

    I have not saved for retirement like I should have due to my divorce and raising two kids alone with no financial help from my ex-husband. I wish I didn’t need to have any financial help from anyone, but that isn’t the case.

    My husband has left enough money aside that I will be able to live comfortably if he died. I do not want to sound greedy, but there is no reason he can’t touch the stock portfolio. It is his. He inherited it from his LW. If he wanted to sell some of it and buy a boat or an RV or take a trip around the world, it’s his right. But he won’t touch it at all.

    My two stepdaughters refuse to speak to their dad or have anything to do with him, but my kids absolutely love him and treat him as if he’s their real dad. (They have nothing to do with their biological father) But the two estranged daughters will inherit millions, while my kids are left with nothing.

    My kids would be very uncomfortable receiving anything out of the trust (which is referred to as the LW’s maiden name Trust) since they know it’s from the LW’s family. Had my husband from the beginning not made a big deal out of where the money was from and kept it separate from his other assets, then it wouldn’t be an issue.

    My granddaughter will be taking loans out to go to college, when my husband (her step-grandfather) has a multi-million dollar stock portfolio. But that does unmentioned because it’s the LW’s money. I’m bitter about it, but I can’t say anything since it seems so impolite.

    1. If I understand the situation correctly, your step-daughters already have a trust fund that will provide nicely for them, so your husband really need not worry about them. However, I can see why he does b/c it appears he has lived his life prior to you being cast in a bad light by his in-laws and who knows what his LW and daughters had to say about the situation back in the day as well. He probably feels as though he is in a no win situation.

      Still, his primary concern should be you. Why he doesn’t extend that to your children and grandchildren who love him is something only he knows and you won’t know his reasoning unless you ask.

      Guilt is a very powerful emotion and if he has spent his life trying to prove to people who don’t like him that he isn’t the person they think he is – that has likely left very deep scars. It’s hard to shake emotional abuse even when you finally find yourself in better circumstances.

      Because it doesn’t seem as though the two of you will be able to discuss this, it might be better for you to simply work on letting it go as much as you can. Difficult, I realize, but maybe you will be able to find some peace.

  4. It is even more complicated when you were part of a blended family before being widowed. One of my late husband’s daughters thought I had to sell my house and give her a cut, even though we had wills that left everything to each other. She still isn’t speaking to me.

    1. I agree that it is. I have heard many stories of adult children who honestly believe they are entitled to cuts from life insurance or that they should be allowed to ransack homes for this and that item (and not just keepsakes either). Biological and step-child alike.

      I long maintained that adult kids can be more difficult than teenage ones when one parent dies. They have their own lives but something about losing a parent brings out the worst in terms of demands and thinking they should be allowed to make decisions. Some of it depends on personality, but I still think that a larger problem is the way we’ve raised kids over the past several decades with a sense of entitlement and no boundaries.

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