Many years ago, Ann lost her husband in an accident and was left with four teenaged children to raise. Thankfully, her father’s years of work in the oil industry and smarts to keep a lot of life insurance left her financially stable. Ann was able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, do what she needed for her children, and hold onto funds for her own future.
A new man came into Ann’s life after several years. “Cliff” literally had zero financial assets to bring into the marriage, and despite the fact that her children were hesitant of the man’s intentions –Ann married him without a prenuptial or any other legal documents to protect her assets. Ann’s four children continued to urge their mother to establish a separate will and a trust to protect herself and her assets, but Cliff’s children (who lived close to the couple) vehemently opposed the idea and talked the couple out of signing the prepared documents.
Over the next five years or so, their marriage appeared strong and the suspicions of the children lessened. They began to think they had misjudged Cliff and that perhaps he really did love their mother. At about this time, however, Ann began to suffer what appeared to be early onset of Alzheimer’s, fading somewhat and becoming forgetful on several occasions.
Soon, Cliff claimed that Ann had become unmanageable - that he could no longer give her the care she needed - and he moved her into a nursing home facility. Ann’s children contacted Cliff about wanting to collect their mother and father’s personal belongings; however, he and his children refused to let them into “his” house. Over the following two-year period, Cliff used his position of power of attorney over Ann’s assets and drained her estate. The kids never saw an item that belonged to either of their parents ever again, and Cliff’s final act was leaving his wedding ring on Ann’s bedside table before skipping town.
One of the hardest conversations we have with our clients is about the possibility of second marriages. However, it is one of the most crucial. And if it isn’t a second marriage, then “who” will you trust to take care of you and your legacy? There are worse stories than this that we could tell about elder abuse inflicted by church friends, professionals, and even children.
A final thought: what if Ann’s first husband had established a trust for the benefit of his wife and children? This story might not have even happened.
The point is: whether you are still happily married for the first time, a widow, or in a second marriage, you need to know what would happen “if…?” We always tell our clients that though we may not have lived their life, we have lived their experiences with and through the families we have served over the years. And the bottom line is…It does not pay to do the job alone.