'I Don't Want My Stepchildren to Get My Inheritance' - What Should I Do?

I bought a house as a single person before I married my spouse who has an ex-wife and four children. After my spouse and I were married in November 2001 I paid all the bills as all his money went to child support. He finally caught up with all his outstanding debt except he never contributed to the $40,000 that was used to purchase the house.

The house is still in my maiden name and I recently inherited my dad's home that is free and clear. My spouse is upset because I refuse to put his name on my first home which we live in together. I told him I will put his name on it when he comes up with his half of the down payment and when we put in place legal documentation to secure what I worked hard for to go to my one and only sister, one and only niece and my grandnephews and grandniece.
How do I safeguard my assets so that when I die it goes where I want it to go and not to any of his children?

Toni, Florida

You should not put your husband on the deed at any cost

Attorney Altagracia B. Pierre-Outerbridge, Founder of Outerbridge Law P.C. in NY says...

1. You should not put your husband on the deed at any cost.

2. You should seek to enter into a postnup with your husband wherein if you predeceases him, he remains at the property until the time of his death and his rights are cut off at death, therefore there will be nothing to pass on to his prior children. This is to avoid a claim that he has been improperly disinherited

3. In conjunction, you should draft a will that recognizes the life estate to your husband and recognizes that upon your death, the property would go to your niece and others of your choosing. Finally, the property can be put in a trust with the beneficiary of the trust being the niece. That should be coupled with the postnup.

The best option for you is to put the house in trust

Alison Zinn lawyer at Lathrop GPM says...

"A good option here is to place the house in trust and then you can determine what happens during life and when you pass away. The trust can allow your spouse the right to live in the house for the rest of his life, and then once he passes away, you can provide further instruction such as the house being sold and the proceeds going to a particular beneficiary. You can probably have the greatest control over what happens to the house here by putting it in trust.

It is always best to get intentions down in writing. Meet with an attorney to talk about creating a will or a trust that can ensure that your spouse is protected, or at provided for as long as he's alive, but when he's longer alive you can also plan for what happens to the house.

I think the other way you can tackle this is a marital agreement. Through a marital agreement, spouses can waive all rights to each other's estate; you can essentially craft a marital agreement any way you want as long as it comports with local law. So that might be another way to tackle it. That could be a little bit more cumbersome here because it's going to require his participation.

So I think the most cost effective and clear way for you to dictate what happens to your property is to get with an attorney and talk about a trust or even something you can do with your will to make sure that the property goes where you want it to go.

I think if he contributed to improvements for example, like he paid to renovate the kitchen or some portion of the house, he might have the ability to make a claim against the estate to recoup those monies. But, unless there's some written agreement or some other understanding about what his investment in the property means, I think that it will be seen as a gift, from one spouse to another or simply a contribution to the household."

If you have a similar family dilemma, let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.

The views expressed in this article are exclusively those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Segal Zuckerman, P.A., Lathrop GPM or partners. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this without seeking advice from professional advisers.

Newsweek's "What Should I Do?" gathers experts to advise a reader on an issue they're having in their personal life. If you have a WSID dilemma, let us know via life@newsweek.com. We can ask experts for advice and your story could be featured on Newsweek.

A stock image shows a notary's office. Lawyers tell a Florida woman how to prevent her inheritance going her stepchildren. Getty Images

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to Newsweek.com
  • Ad free Newsweek.com experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts