Don't tell your wife!
October 10, 2011 1:37 PM   Subscribe

How much of my parents' finances may I ethically hide from my spouse?

My parents have a lot of $$. Think 7 figures...not 8. I'm their only kid. They're getting on in years and are doing estate planning. Problem? They hate my wife and her family. They don't want anyone, especially them, to know their business. In fact, he thinks my wife married me for our "family money" and that her parents are "in on it" ultimately to mooch off of us (real tin foil hat stuff considering we've been married nearly 15 years). They know my parents have some money (they've seen their house), but my parents are adamant about keeping their actual "holdings" secret. This all came to a head yesterday. My father asked me to meet him alone (travel across the country) to discuss finances and meet some of his business associates in person...and... "tell a white lie" to my wife that I was travelling to meet him to be with him for some important doctor's appointment(s). I told him I was uncomfortable with this. He was furious. He thought I was naive to think that spouses don't ordinarily keep secrets (about their parents) from each other and if we were to divorce one day, would I want her then to know about my financial business? I told him that is a risk anyone takes when they get married and finances are comingled. The crazy son of a gun closed by saying that if I want "the money" I need to accommodate his secrecy needs or he'd "give it all to someone else" I told him angrily that might be the best idea. After having slept on it (albeit not so well) I wonder if I'm over-reacting. Is there a level of secrecy about one's parents' affairs that would be considered acceptable?
posted by teg4rvn to Human Relations (47 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Eh. Doesn't really sound that unusual. You have (moderately) wealthy parents who, for whatever reason, are concerned that their daughter-in-law or her family have nefarious purposes in mind.

It's not that uncommon to have trusts and other forms of legal shelter for these kinds of issues.

That said, if you don't want to keep secrets from your spouse, then that is your right. Your father can either accept that and give you the information that he wants to give you or else decline to provide you any information.
posted by dfriedman at 1:41 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think it is acceptable to lie about where you are going. I don't think you need to mislead your wife. However, if your father doesn't want you to disclose his holdings, it might be worth just saying to your wife that you're helping with some estate planning. This isn't unusual when someone owns a business or even has a small amount of money. If it's really important to your dad that you not divulge the amount of their fortune, I think you can keep that under wraps without misleading your wife. If your dad is worried about giving you money, maybe you should ask him if the three of you (your mom, dad and you) could meet with an estate planner or estate lawyer to help your family feel at ease. If they're into family therapy (I'm suspecting not), that might be a way to go. Perhaps involving another party would help.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:45 PM on October 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

Or, you could tell your wife, and keep that information from your parents.
posted by blurker at 1:45 PM on October 10, 2011 [92 favorites]

I don't think you overreacted. It's one thing for your parents to ask you to not discuss their private financial affairs with anyone (though I think that it is unfair to expect someone to keep secrets from their spouse), but it is not at all appropriate for your father to ask you to lie to your wife about your own actions, such as your travel plans. I would personally be furious with my parents for badmouthing my spouse and their family at all, and that they would try to use their money to manipulate me. Maybe you could tell your wife what's going on, and ask her to feign ignorance about the situation to placate your family. I think your options are to a)mislead your wife, b)mislead your family, or c)reiterate to your father that you do not want to be involved, and that it is his business how he chooses to structure his estate planning.
posted by Safiya at 1:46 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, when people ask you to lie for them you pretty much have free pass to lie to them, unless you're going to do neither.
posted by GuyZero at 1:47 PM on October 10, 2011 [22 favorites]

All of it?

Your spouse has no need or right to know your parents' financial condition, if both you and your parents wish to withhold that information. That said, good luck explaining away the summer house on the Cape and the collection of vintage Lamborghinis. :)

Hell, my SO doesn't even know much about her own parent's finances.
posted by pla at 1:48 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Has your wife even asked any of the particulars about their finances? If she has (or does), there's no need to provide precise dollar amounts. After all, that will undoubtedly change while they are using and actively managing their money. It's probably sufficient to tell her that you stand to inherit quite a bit of money, which she (and her family) has apparently already figured out.

Beyond the total amount, the precise nature of their investments is none of her business. Nor is it any of your business, actually, as long as they are competent to manage their money. That you met his business associates, without your wife, is fully appropriate assuming you will be the executor of their estate.

But I don't think your dad has the right to demand you lie to your wife about the purpose for your travel.
posted by DrGail at 1:49 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're going to have to lie to somebody in this situation. Why would you lie to the person you sleep with over the person who lives on the other side of the countrY?
posted by Think_Long at 1:50 PM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

Playing family members against each other: Not Cool.

It is unfair for family member A to demand that family member B lie to family member C. Unless the lie involves surprise parties or presents. Your father doesn't accept your wife as a family member, so as far as he is concerned, no problem. But it is a problem for you, and I think your anger is justified.

This is tricky. If your parents wanted you to keep their wealth quiet because they're self-conscious about it and don't want to be thought of as anything other than salt-of-the-earth folks, and got along well with your wife, I don't think we would see a problem. The fact that your father is so antagonistic puts the situation in a different light.
posted by adamrice at 1:50 PM on October 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

Christ no - tell your dad that you're not going to lie to your wife. If he really wants you to not discuss the details with anyone, including her, that's something I think would be okay to consider. But for him to ask you to lie, for money? Ew.
posted by rtha at 1:51 PM on October 10, 2011 [8 favorites]

"Honey, my parents are pretty well off and they're concerned about people knowing anything about their finances other than immediate family members and their lawyer and accountant. They've asked me to keep this information confidential, even from you. It's their money, so I'm going to honor their wishes."

This seems like a reasonable way to satisfy both camps.

I'm not entirely sure what the big woop is as your parents must full well know that IF you were to ever be separated then your wife's lawyer would be requesting all information on your finances. If your parents die and you inherit everything then that all goes into your combined assets. If your parents aren't dead and you divorce I don't really know if your parents wealth is significant or not - some lawyer reading this string would though.

I don't really know the wealth of my husband's parents are - well I guess I do know they have nearly nothing so I rather expect when they die that we will be pitching in to cover some costs - so what. I suppose there may be some people who marry into family money in a calculated and purposeful way but surely this is not that common???? Maybe I'm naive.

IF I was married to a man with very well off parents, it really wouldn't bother me if they wanted to have private discussions with my spouse about the management of their financial affairs. In fact, I think it would be very strange to be included in these sorts of discussions.
posted by YukonQuirm at 2:00 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your wife doesn't really need to know about your parents money. Hell, you don't really need to know about your parents money. In that light, I think it's OK to "withhold the truth" from her, in that you don't discuss your parent's financial dealings with her.

However, your travel plans are your business, not your father's. It's perfectly reasonable to tell your wife where you're going, when you're going, how long you'll be staying there, etc. I think it's also reasonable to mention that you're going to visit your father to discuss finances with him. While she might need to know the details of your trip, she doesn't need to know the details of what you discuss with your father when you get there.
posted by Solomon at 2:02 PM on October 10, 2011 [6 favorites]

In this kind of situation, where ultimatums from family are coming from complex emotional history as much as some actual concern, I find it most helpful to be very vocal and strong about what I *do* or *would* support. So instead of telling him, adamantly, that you do not want to lie to your wife, tell him that you *do* understand that he has concerns and that you *would* support him in gaining legal protection of any assets that fall to you in the event of separation or divorce from your wife, and total protection of those assets from your wife's family (if you do, this is simply an example of responding with a yes answer when you are being baited to respond "no").

My experience is that if you continue to talk in terms of what you ARE willing to support that still somehow protects the cantankerous relative's interests, you can stop battling them about whatever bone you're both snapping over.

Subtle lines, here, but I will say that it sounds like you'll never change his mind about his emotional reasoning in regards to your wife and her family, but you could change his mind about how he perceives your support of him (and thereby preserve your future resources--financial and emotional).

In short, never say no, or issue your own ultimatums, but provide *a lot* of yeses for what is mutually agreeable; and it helps to phrase it in such a way that seems to put his concerns first ("I will absolutely assist you in planning your estate in such a way that protects your bequeathed assets from my wife/in-laws in the event of our separation/divorce because I understand that you have concerns.")

If his concern is what your wife knows, your counsel rests with your values and you've received good advice on both sides above. In any event, disclosing to her what his wishes are in the matter, and that you disagree with them is minimal (IMO), and then I think you discuss what she is comfortable with from there (she may be fine with confidentiality, for example). If her wishes are opposed to your father's and you wish to honor hers, it would not be unreasonable to let your father know that you would support a meeting between you, him, and an attorney that could explain, rationally, any legal power of your wife's knowledge. If your father, then, still has concerns, by then you will have likely had time to talk with your wife about your value stance in regards to your father's wishes.

Good luck. I feel for you!
posted by rumposinc at 2:03 PM on October 10, 2011 [19 favorites]

"Honey, my dad wants me to go out to a meeting regarding his estate, but he didn't want me to tell you that. He wants me to tell you that it's for an important doctor's appointment. So if it comes up, that's what I told you, ok?"
Beyond this, you don't really need to get into specific numbers or anything like that. Just say that it's a managed account, so it might grow or shrink, and that you have no idea how much of it gets spent in any given period, so you have no clue what you'll see by the time it gets to you. All of that has the added benefit of being true.
posted by Gilbert at 2:04 PM on October 10, 2011 [23 favorites]

I think it's totally reasonable for your parents to ask you to keep their finances private. I don't consider that being secretive, I consider it to be basic respect of someone's privacy, which I think even extends to a spouse.

On the other hand, I think it's totally unreasonable for your father to ask you to lie to your wife about the trip. I don't consider that being secretive, either, I consider it lying.

As for whether you would want your wife to know their finances in the case of divorce, I don't see how that enters into it. If you were to divorce while they are still living, it wouldn't be a common asset because you wouldn't have it yet. If you were to divorce after you inherited their estate, presumably she would know about the money, plus they'd be dead so who cares?

I assume your goal now is to de-escalate. You could lie to your wife or lie to your father, but I would suggest saying that you respect his right to financial privacy and will not discuss his finances with your wife, that you will make the trip, and that you will tell your wife only that it is related to estate planning and give no details. If that is unacceptable to him, then I predict a long series of battles until the end and maybe you'd just better not count on any inheritance.
posted by looli at 2:07 PM on October 10, 2011 [9 favorites]

Your Dad sounds a little nutso, which makes me wonder about his mental health connected to aging, or maybe meds interacting, or something along those lines.

I'm assuming your relationship with your Wife is solid, and that she and her family have zero interest in your Dad's money, correct?

If I'm correct, than the white lie I would be telling would be to my aging crazy parent. Provided my spouse was the type to understand that your nutty parent deserves compassion for being a controlling conspiracy theorist, because you definitely want to avoid creating hostility here.

I might instead tell my Dad that of course I wouldn't share specifics about his finances, but of course I wouldn't lie to my Wife by telling her we're seeing doctors instead of estate planners... BUT only if I thought my Dad was reasonable with a sound mind.... I'm not sure what the case is here.

I'm sorry you had to consider this for even 30 seconds. Your Dad is wrong to ask for you to lie. Discretion, yes. Lying, NO.
posted by jbenben at 2:15 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Just want to add that since it is 100% unnecessary to ask you to lie about estate planning vs. doctor's appointment, especially since you can and will keep your parents' financial details silent....

This sounds like an attempt by your father to use you as a weapon against your wife, and/or a way to "prove" he's more powerful than her.

Don't fall for it.

You don't need or want his money if this is the case. If he did this from a place of manipulation and malice, you'll have too many strings attached, and he'll forever hold the inheritance over your head.

But I think you know all of this. Don't let him poison your 15 year long marriage, whatever his motivation.

Here's hoping he's nutty and not malicious, btw.
posted by jbenben at 2:27 PM on October 10, 2011 [4 favorites]

It kind of sounds like there's no particular reason your wife should care. Going to help your dad work out some financial stuff is not, in this day and age, something that happens only to very rich people. It might have been, when they were younger, so maybe just try starting with explaining that? "There's no reason at all that your finances are her business. They don't even need to be my business if you don't want them to be. If you want to get together to talk over estate planning stuff, I'm fine with that, that's perfectly normal in this day and age, and we can be honest about doing that without my telling her any of the specifics."

About the specifics, this isn't something you're not telling her, this is something your parents aren't telling her, and I think respecting their wishes on *that* issue is totally workable. Imagine if your dad had some kind of embarrassing non-fatal medical condition and needed your help to go to the doctor sometimes. Would you consider it to be lying to your wife not to tell her about that? I think some things, you respect the wishes of the person that information "belongs" to.

But information about you--i.e., what you're doing with your day--is something you should have the right to share, where it doesn't mean revealing that thing that they don't want shared just now.

Yes, it's silly. But it's what they want. If I were your spouse and I wasn't with you for your money, not knowing about your parents' financial condition would not bother me a bit, so long as you weren't randomly heading off to places that were different than where you told me you were going.
posted by gracedissolved at 2:32 PM on October 10, 2011

Response by poster: OP here-- I'm not a lawyer, but for some reason I think my father wants to put my name on these assets...why I don't know. Also, he won't tell me who he wants me to meet. Frankly, it sounds a bit shady to me. I don't want to enter a room and be told I'm now the underboss of a crime family (that I never even knew existed). I even asked him if all his business dealing were "above board." He said of course. But since he's been ambiguous with me over the years, who knows?
posted by teg4rvn at 2:39 PM on October 10, 2011

Thanks for the update.

Before signing anything, have your own lawyer on retainer to review any documents. But if I were you, I'd not join in on this current scheme at all, since you say he's always been cagey about business issues. I doubt he's a crime boss! But yeah, stay away from shady dealings and you can't go wrong.
posted by jbenben at 2:54 PM on October 10, 2011

If he's signing over assets now, it's feasible there are tax implications.
posted by garlic at 3:04 PM on October 10, 2011 [9 favorites]

If your father dislikes your wife as much as you say, he may be setting you up so he can reveal your lie to your wife in an attempt to drive you apart.
posted by Hermes32 at 3:10 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

Maybe my own family history is coloring this, but I don't see why your parent's financial affairs are your wife's business unless your parents choose for them to be. My family of origin was always very secretive about money and rarely gave us any information about their finances. There was nothing nefarious about it...only that they were very private in this arena. Perhaps your folks are the same way. FWIW, they are now in their early 70's if it is a generational thing.

When you add your parents' unfounded concerns/paranoia about your wife's motives to the mix, it will make them all the more secretive. I am not usually one to abide bad behavior, but I really don't see why you can't accommodate his need for privacy and tell your wife the minimum you need to in order to not lie (i.e you are going there for financial meetings but can't talk about it more than that out of respect for their privacy).

On preview of your last post, perhaps he wants to put assets in your name now for some legitimate legal/estate planning reason. if your parents are anything like mine in the privacy department, there is no need to jump to the suspicion that his dealings not be "above board". He is probably just super private. (But have your own lawyer look at it if you are unsure).
posted by murrey at 3:11 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Asking you to not share the details of their finances is completely reasonable; everyone has their own threshold of what they're comfortable with people knowing about their monetary situation. That's just basic courtesy between people who care for each other - not airing their business out to folks just because they know it.

Now, the smart thing for your parents is to keep to the pirate creed: three can keep a secret if two are dead. If they are THAT adamant about your wife and her family not knowing something then they should be grown-ups and just not tell you things they don't want them to know.

Clearly smart and grown up aren't things that apply here, and they're allowing their animosity to color their behavior. You're completely reasonable in refusing to play along. Asking you to not share things? Reasonable (mostly). Asking you to go out there AND make up a story about it? Not reasonable.

"Look dad, I'm happy to promise not to share your private business with anyone else. But where I'm going and why IS my wife's business. So I'm happy to tell her it's about a private business thing and not tell her any details, but I'm not going to make things up. I don't know why you'd trust me to keep your confidences if you think I'm the kind of person who would lie to my wife."

The only place it's not reasonable is if he wants to alter your financial situation NOW by transferring assets. Asking you to take ownership of XYZ and then keep it from your legal spouse is just insane. Where does that stop? If you get the divorce he seems to think is inevitable will he expect you to lie to the court? Hide your tax returns from her?

Either tell him you'll show everyone in your life the appropriate respect or take blurker or GuyZero's approach and just agree and claim you're going along with his hairbrained scheme.

But don't be surprised, if you do that, if he tests you by outing you on this. Someone with that disdain for your wife won't be reluctant to try to harm your marriage by outing you as a liar. Are you and your wife prepared to run a long lie on HIM like he wants you to run on her?
posted by phearlez at 3:27 PM on October 10, 2011

So your father is pretty clear that he wants to drive wedge between you and your wife. Expecting you to hide your assets if you divorce (and bringing up divorce when you are presumably happily married) appears to me that he has a very little respect for you. Is he trying to "buy your love" by using the only leverage he has over you? My experience is that older relatives that attempt to use money to control people end up having vast amounts less than they project they have, so keep that in mind before engaging in his game to ruin your marriage.
posted by saucysault at 3:36 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

IANYL, and especially not a family/estate lawyer, but maybe you and your wife could discuss a post nuptial agreement? Might clear the air once and for all. Of course if I was your wife I'd wouldn't take that suggestion too well and rightly so, but it's an option.

This is particularly ridiculous because there are a lot of things that your father could do estate wise to protect your inheritance from your wife's control. I know this because my grandmother went to VERY great lengths to do just what your father wants to do because of a certain family member's (now thankfully former) spouse. However, the family member in question had no idea.

So if your father has an attorney, he should know this. (Disclaimer I don't know your circumstances and it's possible that in your specific circumstances this wouldn't be possible)

Which is a very roundabout way me saying that unless he has not sought legal advice (possible) there is more cooking here and really you already know this. Given there is no conceivable reason you would need to go anywhere or meet anyone in person in this day and age to discuss financial arrangements.

Personally, I would take the coward's way out of this and lie to your father and tell your wife the truth and ask her to play dumb (assuming you think she can do this, I could understand being so unfuriated that palying nice just wouldn't be an option) then go and get your money. It's been 15 years. You're father isn't going to change his mind about your wife or her family. You could push this to the brink and walk away with no relationship wtih your parents and no inheritance, which fair enough if you are ready to do this. But really it's probably better to just maintain what ever fractured relationship you have wtih your father with a combination of white lies and sucking it up, and use your inheritance to solidify you and your wife's financial future.

All that being said, I think it's fine to not provide your wife with your parents' finances, as long as they remain their finances. As soon as they become your finances that's another and I do think she deserves to know the broad strokes (i.e. you'll be taking over the family business one day, the kid's are getting college funds whatever). And lying about why you are traveling is totally unacceptable. She deserves to know why your going, but I think it's fair enough to tell her you've been asked not to discuss the details of their finances and you are trying to respect that, but that was the reason you went.
posted by whoaali at 3:54 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @Hermes32-**If your father dislikes your wife as much as you say, he may be setting you up so he can reveal your lie to your wife in an attempt to drive you apart.**

Thought of that.

@phearlez-*I don't know why you'd trust me to keep your confidences if you think I'm the kind of person who would lie to my wife.*

Awesome line. Might use it. Unfortunately, he doesn't consider my wife family.

@saucysault-*My experience is that older relatives that attempt to use money to control people end up having vast amounts less than they project they have, so keep that in mind before engaging in his game to ruin your marriage.*

OMG, that's exactly how he is acting. Do I believe 7-figures? Yes. He's acting like it's Bill Gates/Warren Buffett kind of money.
posted by teg4rvn at 3:56 PM on October 10, 2011

Well, others may not agree, but to me, my spouse is my most important family now. I love my parents, but my relationship with Mr. M. trumps their wishes. I would govern myself according to that.

You're in a tough situation. Good luck.
posted by Maisie at 4:07 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

You shouldn't have to lie to your wife about what you are doing but to my mind how much money your parents have and what they do with it is none of her business. I wouldn't however lie to her about where you are going and why that could lead to all sorts of wrong ideas about affairs or something if the lies get out of control. Possibly getting your wife on side to white lie to your father about her knowing why you went might be the easiest solution. You could still respect your parents privacy and make sure she doesn't know any details, just that your father wants you to go sign some paperwork.

Side note and extremely unlikely but if the paranoia about your wifes motives have only started or started to get worse recently it can be an early sign of dementia/senility. My fathers paranoia/persecution worries got very hard to handle before we were told by doctors that failing memories etc can lead people to act like that. Again its a long shot and I hate to sound all doom and gloomy, just thought I'd mention it in case.

Good luck with it all.
posted by wwax at 4:23 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have your own attorney review things.

Tell your wife where you are going. Don't reveal the request to lie, unless asked.

Sounds like your dad doesn't have that much cash.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:28 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think, and of course you need to decide for yourself, that if it were me in this situation, I would honestly tell my spouse that my Dad is being a little crazy about some family stuff and I feel like he won't be satisfied until I go hash it out with him. I doubt your wife would want to go with you to see him, as she must know how the family feels about her (I am so sorry you are stuck in the middle of this!).

Then I'd tell Dad that I told my wife I was going to visit, but nothing about the estate planning stuff, and I hope that's good enough because that's as far as I'm going to go.

Now, I trust my parents and my spouse and they all get along, but I'd also advise you not to sign anything other than, maybe, witnessing your parents' will while you are there. Anything else, tell your Dad you need to take it to your lawyer to look it over. If Dad thinks this is supremely significant, you should treat it that way yourself.
posted by misha at 4:39 PM on October 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

I don't know how much money is a lot of money to you and your family since "a lot of money" is really relative...I think millions is a lot where someone sitting next to me think tens of thousands is a lot. The important thing is, your parents are concerned and would like to protect you so it is better to meet with your father and hear him out.

Argue with him after you get all of the facts, the information, the way he intends to transfer the money to you.

Maybe their concern about your wife is valid, maybe it isn't, but why not hear what information they have for you first. You might have an idea of what the amount is, but if your father wants you to fly across the entire country to talk about it, I am going to guess the amount is quite significant and perhaps beyond what you think it is.

You may not have any choice but disclose what you receive when the time comes since I assume you file joint taxes. So you don't have to fight with your parents about how you are not going to lie about the finances because when you have to cough up a nice sized check to cover the estate taxes, you will have no choice but to tell her anyway.

I was just discussing these sorts of financial matters with a friend of mine and even as a woman, I suggested that he tell his girlfriend that if they progress with their relationship, she will need to consider signing a pre-nuptual agreement.

Keep in mind one very important thing...Money does #$?! up stuff to people. I have witnessed it first hand very often and a lot of times, it didn't take a large amount of money to do it.

Don't be upset with your parents. No matter how crazy and insane something is, they do it because they want what they feel is best for you. It isn't always normal or logical, but it is out of their love for you.
posted by Yellow at 6:01 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a difference between lying and not sharing specifics, as others have said. I don't believe that continues to hold true once these assets are in your name.

Your update really gives me pause. Once your name is on these assets, they're yours, and if his name isn't on them they're no longer his. If your dad wants to continue to control these assets-- and it certainly sounds like he does-- then he should keep them in how own name. That coupled with his request that you lie to (or at least keep secrets from) your wife... I don't know, it feels wrong. I'd tell him to go fuck himself and to come back when he's ready to act like an adult and accept the fact that you're married. In more polite terms. Possibly.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:11 PM on October 10, 2011

A parent who asks a kid to lie to their spouse is messed up and unlikely to keep to any agreement they propose. If he hates your spouse and her family that much, all bets are off as to what that will may one day say.

Document this so that if you have to challenge a will he wrote while paranoid and out of his mind, you'll have evidence. Talk to an estate lawyer about how to proceed.
posted by zippy at 6:16 PM on October 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's not ok to lie to your wife. It's just not. When someone, even a parent, asks you to be disloyal to your wife in order to be loyal to him, that is an unreasonable request.

I disagree with those who say this is none of your wife's business. If you will be inheriting money from your parents, that's her business. Especially if you will be getting financially entangled with your dad in some way right now, that's her business. Your name on some kind of financial document? Her business. Your financial life changing in some way, now or in the future? Her business. Your plans for the future impacted by knowledge of your parents' finances? Her business.

I'm not saying she has a right to copies of your parents' bank statements. But if your father is giving you information about his financial life that will impact your financial life in some way, now or later, that's your wife's business because she is your life partner.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:49 PM on October 10, 2011 [22 favorites]

I don't see what the problem is, presuming you trust your wife and she can keep a secret (and really, isn't that what a spouse is supposed to do?). Tell dad whatever he wants to hear, tell wife what's up and ask her to play dumb.

Next problem?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:18 PM on October 10, 2011

It sounds like you have a good marriage, in which you share important information and events with your wife. Your parents presumably worked hard, and amassed this money, and it represents a lot to them, not just the value, but the work, and the pride of leaving behind an estate, and now Dad's a bit obsessive about it. Plus, being old and knowing that your years are limited is scary and depressing. Does Dad get regular medical care? Maybe you can talk him into a good checkup, so that he has more time to spend more of the money himself.

Go see a lawyer, and see what you can do to keep any inherited money from becoming marital property, and subject to sharing in the event of divorce, and to get basic advice about this. You can help your Dad achieve his goal of protecting family assets from a potential divorce. That protection is like having a weapon. It doesn't get used, because you stay married. It's especially important to talk to your wife about this; you need to have good financial plans. rumposinc's advice about how to approach your Dad is excellent, and jenben's advice to have a lawyer review anything you sign is absolutely correct.
posted by theora55 at 8:35 PM on October 10, 2011

Meg_Murray nailed this because even though I am happily married, I didn't think it through, nor was I privvy to the extra info that you have trepidation regarding the nature of your Dad's business dealings.

Don't put your name on any documents without checking with your Wife, a good lawyer, and a tax consultant, first. Full stop.

It always amazes me about AskMe when someone boils it down (finally!) to the logical and practical suggestion that creates the perfect win-win scenario.
posted by jbenben at 8:43 PM on October 10, 2011

As your spouse, she will also be dealing with the tax ramifications of this transfer of assets. This isn't fair to keep from her.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 9:20 PM on October 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

If I was in your situation, I would tell my father the following:

"Dad, I'll be more than happy to come out to help you with your estate planning. However, I am not going to lie to my wife about where I am going and why. I love you and I love my wife. If your money forces me to choose between the two, then perhaps it would be better off for all of us if you did give the money to someone else or to a charity and kept me out of this process. I suggest you find a reputable lawyer who will help you disperse your estate according to your wishes after you and Mom are gone. I'm sorry if this upsets you, but it is unfair to ask me to choose between your money and my wife. Give my love to Mom and see you at Thanksgiving."
posted by KingEdRa at 9:21 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hard to see that you're overreacting. What you alluded to seems the simplest answer: tell your father that you will not comply with his request. If that results in your inheritance being zero, so be it.

(As an aside, I am among those who see a huge difference 'tween keeping secrets and telling lies.)
posted by ambient2 at 9:25 PM on October 10, 2011

A look a the OP's question history might explain why his father doesn't like his wife. She is, apparently, chronically late, extremely argumentative, confused about her sexuality (not sure if Dad knows about that one). She seems to have a lot of issues, and Dad may be trying to protect the OP.

I second those who say to be vague with your wife ("estate planning session") and understanding of your Dad (not mentioning that you didn't lie, but dealing with the estate issues).
posted by 3491again at 2:50 AM on October 11, 2011

When I divorced, inherited property was not included in the settlement. Could be a North Carolina thing. May want to check your states divorce laws.
posted by PJMoore at 4:30 AM on October 11, 2011

My opinion is that gold-digger suspicion in regards to a 7 figure amount is a little paranoid. A million dollars is nothing like it used to be. The people I know who have that quantity of jack would be hard pressed to find a gold-digger.
posted by bukvich at 7:56 AM on October 11, 2011

A slightly out-of-the-box suggestion: find and read Beyond the Grave. Consider providing a copy to your parents.

The reason I mention this is that a competent estate attorney should be able to work with whatever reservations your parents have about your wife without placing demands on you regarding disclosures to your wife. Estate planning which depends on an heir keeping secrets from his partner of 15 years is BAD PLANNING. It strikes me as possible that a well-thought-out estate plan might calm your parents' fears. At the very least, knowing whether good estate planning would assuage your parents' fears might give you more information about what's really going on.

Good luck.
posted by endless_forms at 8:50 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hopefully final OP update--

Had 2-hour-long discussion with pops. He's 73, BTW. At the core of the situation is my father's ever-increasing paranoia that everyone wants their hands on his $$, particularly my wife and her family (Once again an unusual strategy after nearly 15 years of marriage with no payoff). There's no breaking through this part of his personality. So even discussing "estate planning" activities is unacceptable to him; that suggests a significant estate! And since they want his money, he cannot "risk" giving my wife and her family that impression. In the end I feel more sorry for him than angry with him. It's very sad.
posted by teg4rvn at 4:43 PM on October 11, 2011

"Honey, I'm going to a doctor's appointment with my father. The doctor will be writing a will for my father."

It sounds like he's going senile. Try to get him and your mother to a real lawyer to make sure the will can't be contested on mental health grounds.
posted by benzenedream at 12:42 AM on October 12, 2011

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