After decades together, there are still couples who do not share information about their finances with each other. Some couples separate their money – mine, yours, and ours. They too often get caught in the same position, having very little knowledge about their spouse’s money.
The problem is compounded in household’s where one spouse worked outside the home. The stay at home spouse may not have a separate stockpile of money and investments and is wholly financially dependent on the other spouse. The working spouse in this scenario, usually manages the family’s bank accounts and makes the financial decisions. The non-working spouse trusts the information the working spouse provides and goes along with the plan.
Without a financial power of attorney, one spouse has no way of knowing what the other spouse has by way of cash, investments, life insurance policies, stocks and bonds, pensions, and retirement accounts. Unless, the accounts are held jointly, even if you are legally married, you will not receive financial information from any financial institution about your spouse’s accounts.
Even in death, if your spouse did not name you executor of the will or you become appointed personal representative if your spouse died without the will, you may never know what the true financial affairs were of your union. You will feel the immediate result of any poor financial planning or dissipated funds when your lifestyle collapses and feelings of betrayal set in. Unfortunately, the answers to your question as to what happened to the money, died with your spouse.
Talking to your spouse about your family’s financial affairs is necessary to avoid being blind-sided when your spouse dies. Wherever possible, joint accounts should be created. A joint bank account automatically gives the surviving spouse, 100% ownership of the bank account, bypassing the will or any probate decision. Request to see copies of bank statements and life insurance accounts for example, if the account is being held in one spouse’s name.
Other options include executing power of attorneys for each other’s financial affairs as well as health care decisions, while you are both healthy. Chronic illnesses or lost capacity for people who suffer from dementia will require court intervention to help the other spouse have access to financial information and be able to make decisions on accounts that he or she does not personally own outright. You can always request information and are entitled to all records from the financial institution directly, if you possess a joint account.