Women need to be aware of family financial matters

I cannot imagine what Maureen Boesen has been going through, trying to deal with her husband’s suicide while parenting four children who suffered a shocking bereavement.

Compounding her grief is a lawsuit from a creditor trying to claim most of her husband’s $3 million life insurance policy:

Maureen Boesen testified that she didn’t know for sure she was in a Great Western Bank office at 10101 University Ave. in Clive or what kind of documents she co-signed with her husband in May.

“I can’t say for sure what I signed,” Maureen Boesen said. “My husband said I was there just to sign some documents because some banks need the wife’s signature on them.”[…]

Great Western officials claim they are entitled to the large majority of the insurance payments because fraudulent documents were used to obtain the loan.

Executives for the bank insisted Maureen Boesen be held responsible for her husband’s filing of false statements to obtain a $3.5 million loan even though they acknowledged she probably didn’t know they were fraudulent. The lawsuit said the bank “does not allege Mrs. Boesen engaged or devised the acts” of falsifying documents.

In many households, the woman keeps track of the family finances. However, many families operate like Ed Boesen’s: the husband handles money issues, and the wife plays little role. It’s easy to see why Maureen Boesen didn’t ask any questions before signing those papers.

When I was growing up, I remember my father warning me many times not to give a future husband total control over the family money, and not to let my husband invest too much into any risky business scheme.

He also taught me that “the most optimistic person in the world is the guy on the brink of bankruptcy,” because he always hopes that the next deal will turn things around.

The Boesen story is making the news because Ed Boesen was a prominent local citizen and died owing an unusually large amount of money. But reckless borrowing by one partner sends plenty of families into bankruptcy every year.

A woman whose husband is the sole wage-earner for the household is particularly vulnerable in this situation:

Maureen Boesen became choked with emotion at one point during Friday’s testimony, when she was asked about her children. The Boesens, who had been married 23 years, have four children, ages 22, 19, 16 and 13. During her examination, she repeatedly insisted she knew little of her husband’s financial world and centered her attention on her family. She said that she would seldom pick up the family’s mail, and all bills were sent to the family accountant.

“I took care of things at the house,” she said. “Ed was at work all the time and he took care of the work part of it.”

Parents, please teach your daughters not to cede total control over family finances and not to sign financial documents without understanding them.

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