‘We do not want him to receive anything from our estate’: How do we ensure our son-in-law does not get his hands on our money?


Dear Quentin,

My wife and I are in our 70’s and have one daughter as the sole beneficiary to our estate. We live in Ohio.

She is separated from her husband, and it doesn’t appear that they will be getting divorced. They have no children.

We do not want him to receive anything from our estate. If we leave it all to our daughter will he have any claim on the proceeds?

Reluctant Father-in-Law

Dear Reluctant,

Unlike this gentleman, the law is in your favor.

Your daughter may have her reasons for not getting divorced, and that may change over time, but if you and your wife were to pass away and leave her your estate, your son-in-law would not be entitled to one dollar — unless the money becomes commingled with marital assets. If, for instance, she deposited it in a joint bank account, then it would be hard to claim those funds as separate property.

Sowald Sowald Anderson Hawley & Johnson, a Columbus, Ohio-based law firm, gives more nuanced examples of an unintentional commingling of assets between spouses. “Perhaps you still owe on your home and your vacation property. You decide to pay off both of those mortgages with the inheritance money. Those properties belong to both you and your spouse.”

The good news: The federal tax exemption is $12.6 million in 2022, up from $11.58 million for 2021, and Ohio has no state-level estate taxes. Setting up a revocable trust for your daughter — one that you can alter during your lifetime — is one way of providing an income for your daughter, rather than one lump sum. It would protect her inheritance, if she was unduly influenced by her husband.

Another benefit of setting up a trust: Unlike probate, which is a public process — the equivalent of airing your laundry in full view of your neighbors — a trust is private. In this case, it keeps your assets away from the prying eyes of your son-in-law. These are conversations you can have with your daughter. You can start planning now about your joint hopes for her future, hopefully an independent one.

Yocan email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

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