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Carol Ross Joynt: Excerpt From “Innocent Spouse”
Comments () | Published June 2, 2011
This article is adapted from "Innocent Spouse," Joynt's 2011 memoir.
There was silence. Finally, Mr. Namorato spoke up. “But you signed the tax returns.”

“I know, but they were filled out by an accountant.” I looked at the accountant, who looked away. “Why wouldn’t I sign them?”

Martin Gray shifted in his seat and cleared his throat. “I was working with the numbers Howard provided me,” he said.

“So was I!”

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Mr. Namorato said, trying to calm me down.

“What happens now?” I asked.

“We’ll talk to Deborah Martin,” Julie said. “They can put liens on your accounts. We’ll try to stop that. You should find out how much you can come up with. What if you sell your house? What will you get for that? And the art? You have a lot of antiques, right? What would that add up to?”

“My house? Just sell it?”

“That’s one way of paying this off,” someone said.

“I want to keep my house.” It was our safe harbor. It was my little boy’s home.

“What about the life insurance?” one of the lawyers asked.

“There is no life insurance,” I said.

“What? How can that be?”

“Howard didn’t believe in life insurance. I only got him to sign a will a year ago. He didn’t want to do it because he thought it would jinx him, that he would die.” I smiled weakly at the irony. “It looks like he was right.”

That was that. The meeting ended with a refrain of “We’ll make some calls and get back to you. We’ll meet again next week.”

Mr. Namorato wrapped his arm around my shoulder and walked me to the elevator. “Now, Carol,” he said, “don’t leave here depressed.”

Was he crazy? All of my worst fears had come true. Spencer and I were going to lose everything. Our lives would be ruined. I was beyond depressed.

That night I had a fitful sleep, but the fact that I slept at all was probably the bigger surprise. What kept me awake was not simply the perplexing bad deeds my beloved husband had done but the sheer magnitude of what had landed on us. There was my frightening ignorance of this dangerous new world of cash flows and taxes, criminal fraud and lawyers. I had to get sophisticated fast. Grief, I knew, would have to wait. Tears could come later. First, I had to save us.

This article appears in the May 2011 issue of The Washingtonian. "Innocent Spouse" was published in May, 2011 by Crown, and is available from Amazon and other major retailers. 

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Posted at 11:55 AM/ET, 06/02/2011 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Articles