My husband refuses to let me see his will. Is this normal?

Dear Penny,

I’ve been with my husband for 12 years and married for five. He has always had more money than me by a large margin, in both income and investments. He is generous with that money, paying maybe 75% of our joint expenses, as well as most of our luxury expenses, like eating out and travel. I appreciate this, and I know he does it both because he cares for me and because I would not be able to do these things on my income. We keep separate bank accounts. We have no children at all. We’ve talked about it and he seems content, not resentful, of our financial situation. Further, he manages the household finances and feels most of the stress about money for retirement.

My question: He has written a will, at my request. He refuses to discuss it or let me see it, claiming that his attorney advised him not to show and/or discuss the will with anyone, including his wife. I’m disturbed, and feel like I deserve to know what his plans are. What do you think? Is this standard?

— In the Dark

Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® and contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to
Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® and contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [ The Penny Hoarder ]

Dear In the Dark,

Thank you for sharing your experience; this sounds like a trying situation and one of many tough money conversations to have with your spouse.

I’m not a legal expert, so I reached out to some experts in estate planning to weigh in.

Ciara Lister, an estate planning attorney and co-founder of the online estate planning service Legado, says this level of privacy isn’t unusual for a will, and it’s within your husband’s right to keep his will private.

“The claim that an attorney advised against sharing the will with the spouse is plausible, as legal advisers often emphasize the importance of confidentiality and the potential for undue influence or disputes,” says Lister.

Lister explains your husband isn’t legally obligated to share his will with anyone, including a spouse, while he’s alive. After his death, it’ll go through the probate process in court, and then it becomes a public document anyone can view. If you’re named in the will, you also have a right to request a copy of it after his death.

A lot of factors determine whether a person wants to share their will with anyone. Your husband might simply be following the advice of his attorney, he might want to avoid instigating a conflict in the family, or keeping this document private might just be a personal preference for him. Even if you don’t see the will, now that you’ve started the conversation, you can continue an open dialogue in your relationship about what each of you wishes to happen to your estates after you die.

“Although there’s no legal mandate to view the will while the spouse is alive, understanding each other’s intentions, especially in states where laws facilitate seamless asset transfer to spouses, is invaluable,” says Lister.

It’s possible he has other reasons for secrecy, too. Lister suggests his hesitancy could mean the will includes directives you might not agree with (which is, again, his legal right). Lister’s co-founder and CEO at Legado, Noelle Kimble McEntee, adds that secrecy about a will is sometimes covering up another person or child in the spouse’s life. We’re by no means suggesting that’s the case for you, but clearing up his motivations through an open dialogue can help put any concerns or mistrust to rest — or deal with them early.

“If possible, it’s worth asking if (infidelity) is the reason to help avoid any future heartache, confusion or legal battles,” says McEntee.

Let your husband know if you’re worried about your financial security or an unexpected contested will after his death. He can help you avoid those challenges by being open about his intentions for his estate, even if he wants to keep the document private.

• • •

Dana Miranda is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® and contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to

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