The Moneyist: My ‘shifty’ husband keeps our $3.5M property business in his name only. I don’t want to get kicked out if he should die

United States

Dear Quentin,

My second husband and I bought a large property and developed it into a successful restaurant and campground.

All of the property, and pretty much everything we own, is titled in the business corporation. His name is the only one on the corporate ownership.

We’ve both signed notes for debt, and I’ve asked for my name to be added to the property deed or corporation.

‘He wants me to sign another note to make improvements.’

He never did. Now he wants me to sign another note to make improvements. I said no and I’m standing firm that I need protection if he should suddenly pass away (we’re pushing 60).

What if he decides to divorce me? How will I be protected? He tells me everything is just fine and those issues will never be a problem for me.

We both have children from previous marriages. We all get along great, but this property is very valuable (worth an estimated $ 3.5 million with only $ 200,000 debt).

We also live on the property. I don’t want to get kicked out if he should die.

Wife of Shifty Spouse

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

Dear Wife,

It’s controlling behavior and you are right to hold firm. Don’t sign another promissory note until your name is on the property deed and the corporation. You should also ask to see the accounts. Your finances are on the line if this business goes belly up, along with your husband’s. Currently, he has full control over the cash flow. You are incurring half the risk, with no input whatsoever.

Equitable distribution states divide marital assets fairly and community property states divide marital assets 50/50. To answer your question: This business was created during your marriage and with marital funds. In the event that you were to divorce, especially given that you have signed loans, a judge would consider you an equal owner.

Your husband has already given you reason not to trust his financial management. The National Endowment for Financial Education conducted a survey on so-called financial infidelity in 2018 and found that more than 40% of American adults who combine finances with a partner or spouse admitted to committing “financial deceptions” against their husband or wife. 

“Far too often, one spouse resorts to underhanded tactics to hide money or assets from the other — stashing money secretly, draining bank accounts, retitling property to relatives, understating income and overstating expenses — usually in an attempt either to cheat the other out of a legal share of the assets or to minimize the amount of support to pay, or both,” it adds.

Consult a lawyer now, and don’t wait for your husband to give you more excuses. Given that this is the second marriage for both of you, my guess is your husband plans to leave this business to his children. He will only be able to leave whatever share of this business belongs to him to his own kids. As a stakeholder, it’s important for you to know the books inside out.

By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

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: