Woman should fight for her part of market fund

DEAR BRUCE: I recently split with my live-in boyfriend/fiance of 10 years. He had put my name to a stock-market fund and made it a joint account. After the breakup, he requested that the broker take my name off the account and forged my signature. The compliance director informed me of the request and asked whether I knew. I told him that my name had been forged, and the broker froze the account of $220,000. My ex is now suing me, trying to take away any rights that I might have.

I'm hard-pressed to afford an attorney but will engage one if I am entitled to a share of this joint account. — G.F., via e-mail

DEAR G.F.: I don't believe anyone can say for certain whether you have an interest in the account, but I certainly would fight like crazy to maintain it. By putting your name on the account, he gave you this money without any conditions. You didn't mention where you were living for this 10-year period. Does your state of residence recognize common-law marriage? If so, you may have acquired some rights in this regard as well. By all means, consult an attorney. The numbers are large enough to justify whatever hardship is necessary to get this done.

DEAR BRUCE: My daughter has had a tough couple of years — divorce, bad credit, etc. She has gotten back on her feet and now has a great job, earning more than $35,000 a year. She has paid off all her debts and has managed to save $15,000. She would like to find a house of her own; unfortunately, she can't afford one just yet. We have suggested she buy a used mobile home, which she could pay off in a few years and save money. She's reluctant for us to co-sign on a mortgage, feeling that it does nothing for her credit. We feel strongly that getting an apartment for another year — for more than the cost of a small mortgage — is throwing money away. What do you think? — Reader, via e-mail

DEAR READER: It isn't often that I suggest that someone buy a used mobile home, because they tend not to hold value. But it would provide her a decent place to live while she gets her act together, and it would save her a little money on the side. This may be the way to go.

DEAR BRUCE: My daughter is the single mother of three children. She is out of work right now, but when she does get a job, she will probably make $50,000 a year. She has asked my wife and I to co-sign a loan for a house that is selling for $110,000. I'm retired, with a very modest retirement and Social Security, and my wife will retire either this year or next. She earns less than $2,000 a month. Do you think it would be wise to co-sign for this house? We love our daughter, but I think this is a lot to ask of us. — W.V., via e-mail

DEAR W.V.: I'm with you. Your daughter is a grown-up. She made her own bed, and while I know you would like to help her, putting your retirement in jeopardy is entirely too much for her to ask of you. Let her rent for a couple of years. Besides, with all the problems in the mortgage industry and the record number of foreclosures, I don't think — even with you co-signing — she could qualify for a house. Give her a few years to save some money; then she can go out and buy a house. Children have no right to ask their parents to put their retirement in jeopardy just so they can have something they haven't earned.

Send your questions to: Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. E-mail to: bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns.

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