Dear Penny: Do I Confront My Husband Over His Secret Investments for His Ex?
My husband has a hidden investment account where his beneficiaries are his ex-wife and son. I think he opened this investment account while we were married. Also, we have an account where the same son is the beneficiary, along with the other children of my husband. How can I stop and make it fair?
My husband doesn’t know that I know about his hidden investment. Do I consult first with a lawyer, or do I talk to my husband about his wrong action? What steps do I have to take in order to safeguard my finances?
The answer depends on how much you trust your husband. Were you shocked to learn about this investment account? Or does siphoning off investments into a secret account seem like par for the course with him?
If your husband is trustworthy and is open with you about financial matters, I’d start with him. You don’t need to approach this in full-blown confrontation mode. Tell him what you found, and ask him to explain.
You say you think he opened the investment account while the two of you were married — but you don’t know this to be the case. If he actually opened the account while he was still married to his ex, perhaps he was ordered to make her the beneficiary as part of his divorce agreement. Another possibility would be that he simply forgot to update the beneficiary, which is actually quite common.
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I raise these as possibilities because most people aren’t exactly eager to fork over more money to their ex-spouses. Sure, he could be hiding money in his ex-wife’s name. But sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one.
However, if your husband has a pattern of dishonesty or he refuses to discuss financial matters with you, then consult with an attorney first. That won’t get you out of having a difficult conversation with your husband, of course. If you can’t trust your spouse, I’d seriously question whether you want to stay in this marriage.
Even if your husband has an explanation for this investment account that’s satisfactory to you, it sounds like you’re not communicating openly about money. I can’t tell you how to fairly divide assets among your husband’s kids from the little information I have. (It’s not clear in your letter whether the other children are yours as well.) But the two of you should meet with an estate planning attorney to review your beneficiary designations and wills.
The two of you should each know about the other’s assets and major expenses. That doesn’t mean you need to scrutinize every $12 Amazon purchase the other person makes. But you should ask your husband to go over any investment accounts and bank accounts each of you owns. Try to get in the habit of reviewing the money you’re spending and bringing in each month together. If your husband refuses, consider that a major red flag.
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