Dear Mary: My husband and I have been married 40 years. We are debt free. All of our bills, major purchases, house and bank accounts have always been in both names. Recently, he came into a substantial inheritance. He opened a savings account and put it in his name only. He thinks I should not be concerned about it since he put me as beneficiary. I am upset about this and feel it should be in both names, since everything else is. I think he is going to start making foolish purchases, because as he says, "It's my money." Should I worry about this? Legally, isn't it my money, too? -- Susann, California
Dear Susann: While I am not an attorney, my understanding is that property inherited by one spouse is not community property in California.
The law is clear that inherited property is "separate property." Provided your husband does not comingle these funds in a shared account, his inheritance remains his property alone. You say you've been married for 40 years, so surely you've come to trust your husband by now to have your collective best interest in mind.
It appears to me that you have done things right, financially. My advice is that you draw on that trust, relax and enjoy the next season of your lives. From what you've told me, I don't think you have anything to worry about.
Dear Mary: My father has been the victim of elder abuse. His sister, who was his caregiver, has charged $21,000 on his credit cards. We are trying to determine what accounts he has open and take action to close all of the accounts. What should we do? Thank you for all that you teach us. You help us in hundreds of ways. -- Veronica, email
Dear Veronica: First, you need to call every one of his accounts and report the cards as lost or stolen. Do not close them! The card companies will cancel the numbers and send him new cards. When then arrive, make sure Ms. Abuser is not picking up the mail, and put them into a vault. Do not activate them. This will allow you to keep the accounts open, but she will no longer have the correct numbers to use them. If she tries to use the cards, they will be denied. If he wants to use them, you'll have to call the 800 number to activate first. You can leave them inactivated indefinitely.
Get all three of his credit reports ASAP. You can access his free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com and put a fraud alert on each of the reports. Also, if he will cooperate, you need to file disputes against every single charge she has made. The credit card companies will have to reverse all the charges if he will sign an affidavit that he did not authorize those charges and she did this without his permission. Be warned. They will come after her with criminal charges, and they should.
Do you have a question for Mary? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.