Handling an inheritance unequally divided

Q I have two inheritance questions: 1. I recently received an inheritance that I would like to keep separate from my joint accounts with my husband. I wrote a trust that stated this inheritance would be divided between my husband and my parents' descendants, with the majority going to my parents' descendants. Can I keep my inherited investments separate from my joint married accounts?

2. My dad gave me half of my parents' joint trust. He excluded my siblings. I've told them I would keep a portion, but offered them half to be split between them. My siblings wanted to buy me out, with each getting one-fourth of the inheritance. I sought mediation, but the mediator thinks it would be wasted time, since my siblings have not shown any inclination to move toward a common ground. Are there any practical steps that might improve this issue?

Name withheld, via e-mail

A Regarding the first issue: "You can elect to award the distribution of your assets [including your inheritance] as you wish," says Gary Schatsky, an attorney and fee-only financial planner in New York.

But there is one caveat: Usually a set amount has to be left to the spouse, in this case, your husband. If you leave that amount, says Mr. Schatsky, "the rest can be distributed as you wish."

Your husband could also waive his right to the full amount mandated by your state, "but that is more of a matrimonial issue than legal issue," he says.

On question No. 2: A parent can leave assets to whomever he or she chooses, says Schatsky. So unless you omitted additional facts, "your siblings have no legal entitlement to any part of the inheritance."

Schatsky adds that he finds it extraordinary that your siblings are unwilling to accept the amount that you have offered them, and want even more. Why, he asks, is a mediator involved, since the siblings have no claim against the inheritance?

Q Do some insurance companies use socially screened mutual funds in their variable annuity plans?

T.R., Westfield, N.J.

A Yes, according to Hal Brill and others writing in "Investing With Your Values" (New Society Publishers). The book cites a number of insurance companies that offer socially screened funds. They include AETNA, American General Life, Lincoln Life, Metropolitan Life, TIAA-CREF, Travelers, and The Hartford.

Questions about finances? Write:

Guy Halverson

The Christian Science Monitor

500 Fifth Ave., Suite 1845

New York, NY 10110

E-mail: halversong@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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