Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

My husband and I are JT TEN on a large amount of oil stocks that he inherited from his family while we were married. I recently discovered that they are ADR and worth a lot more than I thought. Why would he keep this information from me? We also have other assets together (savings plan, insurance, etc.,) that he has managed. We are married 30 years now and have 2 grown daughters together.

Asked on 4/08/12, 5:15 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

And your legal question is? Husbands and wives do a lot of strange things. Nobody can answer why this was supposedly hidden from you. There is no such thing as a "joint tenancy" in stocks. What is ADR? How do you know the alleged value? Why would the stock be a "joint tenancy" if these were inherited by your husband? Separate property acquired by inheritance stays separate unless he added your name to the account.

Your length of marriage and the fact that you have grown children is irrelevant. Divorce law and inheritance law are 2 different things. If you are seeking a divorce, Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. Assets are classed as non-marital, marital or divisible (generally property acquired after separation but before divorce). Gifts or inheritances are non-marital unless commingled. The court then looks at a whole host of factors in deciding who gets what if no agreement on division is reached.

Estate law is different. Assets usually pass by will or trust if they are probate. Things like insurance, IRAs/retirement are non-probate assets and will pass to the beneficiary designated by the beneficiary form. Stocks may not have a beneficiary designated form. Joint tenancy means that you both would own it, but that does not mean that whatever is in the account passes to the survivor unless there is some designation.

If you are asking about divorce, then you need to see a family law attormney. If you are questioning your estate plan or if your spouse died, then you need to see a probate, estates & trust attorney.

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Answered on 4/09/12, 9:04 pm

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