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My brother is in his mid-50s and nearly lost his home twice. Should I give him half of my inheritance to pay off his mortgage?

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Dear Moneyist,

My brother is in his mid 50s and is not financially stable. He has no problems making money, but seems to have trouble managing it. He has told me on multiple occasions that he has no retirement funds saved. He is self-employed. Over the last 10 years, he has borrowed a total of $30,000 from me to help piece things together when needed. He has paid all of this back, but each time it takes longer and longer. I charge him no interest and don’t set a formal repayment schedule, so I really can’t complain. While he has never declared bankruptcy to my knowledge, he has restructured his debts twice. I know this is subjective, but I’ve seen him spend money that could have gone to a retirement account on big vacations, etc.

Three of my previous loans were to keep him from losing his home. Currently, he owns a home that he can more easily afford. Because of his poor credit, he did not qualify for a traditional mortgage but the seller was willing to owner-finance for him. Thankfully, it was at a decent rate. Our mother just passed away and I would like to give my brother my half of our inheritance, but only if he would use it to pay off his mortgage. My fear is that he will borrow against his home in the future (he’s done this before), and could still end up losing his home down the road. I’m not sure there is a way to prevent this from happening, unless I was on the deed too. That seems messy.

The Moneyist: My husband earned less than me for a decade, so I paid more towards our expenses. I want him to repay me

Should I just hold onto my half of the inheritance and set it aside for him to use if needed given that gifts with strings have such a stigma? My goal is to make sure he has a roof over his head when he can no longer work. I also want to be smart about how I help him. I may not always be able to help him out financially, and he has no one else to turn to. I am not close with him, but I do feel an obligation to him. I’m not concerned about straining our relationship, because we really don’t have one. Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

I did find one alarming letter from her doctor, dated in 2012. It was the result of a diagnostics test saying my mother had developed a significant cognitive deficit. I believe that my aunt manipulated my mom into revising a new trust and leaving me out of it. How can I find out the truth of this matter?

Kindly,

Younger Sister in Texas

Dear Younger,

Your letter has such clarity, consideration and compassion. Thank you for writing it.

In a world where so many people want so much just because they want it, your letter was a refreshing, welcome change of pace. I also understand that you have been doing your best to provide intermittent financial support for your brother, while doing your best to help him maintain his financial independence. It’s a delicate balance. You, more than anyone, know his patterns and, I suspect, have some idea what led to his previous financial problems.

My first instinct was to provide money in a trust for your brother to be used solely for the purpose of mortgage repayments and an endowment to help pay for its upkeep, but given your brother’s unstable financial history I see that as a last resort. Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, and if your brother receives a windfall, it could trigger whatever need he has for instant gratification or overspending.

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Instead, I suggest you go straight to the source, and suggest a financial therapist and/or adviser to go through his accounts, analyze his mistakes and help him figure out what could be the cause of his problems. He could have emotional problems — after all, most financial decisions are also emotional ones and, let’s face it, who doesn’t have emotional problems — substance-abuse issues and/or he could simply get overwhelmed.

When the American Psychological Association started posing the question in 2007 about what stresses people out the most, the No. 1 answer was money. Fear and anxiety over money can lead to paralysis, and that’s when bills start to pile up, and the problem snowballs. The field of financial therapy includes psychotherapists, marriage counselors, social workers and certified financial planners. They deal with hopes and dreams, as well as outgoings and expenditure.

Resist the temptation for a dramatic intervention. Not unless your hand is forced.

The Moneyist: My wife and I live with my dying mother. My brothers and I will inherit her home. Should I ask her to sell it — and move in with me?

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com. Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

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My boyfriend inherited a home and $700K. He pays me $500 monthly rent. Should I ask him for $86K to pay off my condo?

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Dear Quentin,

I have lived with my boyfriend in my home for over 20 years. We never married, and I have three siblings. I also own another condo in the Caribbean, which I paid for myself.

My boyfriend inherited a home from his dad in the South and a large sum of money, just over $700,000. We just got back from this inherited home. He is still deciding if he/we should keep it.

I owe $86,000 on my current home, and my boyfriend pays me $500 a month rent and he pays the electric and cable bill. We also mutually share groceries. I appreciate all his financial help.


‘His ex-wife will get half of his pension and Social Security in Connecticut. I will not receive that as we were never married.’

I am 65 and get a monthly pension of $800 and receive $1,800 Social Security every month.Together, we own three condos. I have no savings, and own two properties.

He is divorced with six adult grown children. I have only met two of his children out of the six. For some reason, he does not want to get involved with their cookouts and parties etc.

He is close with his children, and speaks to his ex-wife on the holidays as needed about any of the children and grandchildren. We always travel alone. His children never travel with us.

His ex-wife will get half of his pension and Social Security in Connecticut. I will not receive that as we were never married. What should I do financially to secure my future?

Should I ask him to pay off my condo balance of $86,000, and promise to leave the condo to him rather than my siblings in my will?

He does not want to get married, for some reason; he was married once and he said he does not want to do it again.

The Girlfriend

Want to read more? Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

Dear Girlfriend,

Your offer assumes that you will predecease your boyfriend, and that is not a given. If you do not die before he does, he is essentially giving you $86,000 because (a) partners should help each other out, (b) he has newfound wealth and he should spread it around, and/or (c) it’s not fair that he should have all of this dough landing in his bank account when you have had to scrimp and save all of these years. It has a faint ring of that school-days refrain, “If you give me one of your sweets, I’ll be your best friend.” In this case, you already are his best friend. So there’s no upside there.

You have been together for 20 years and you never married. The reason for that may be at least partly related to your respective financial affairs. Your boyfriend has a lot of financial responsibilities, one home (at least he had one home before his latest windfall), children, and an ex-wife, while you have two homes, and are free of your partner’s other financial burdens. He also pays you $500 rent every month, which was obviously a convenient arrangement for both of you. But it seems late in the day to draw a line connecting his financial future, that of his ex-wife’s and your own.

Sometimes, it’s good to ask for help. People often want to help, and it’s a privilege to help out a loved one. But to ask him for a chunk of his inheritance to pay off your home, especially when you have another condo in the Caribbean that you could sell, seems bad timing at best, and opportunistic at worst, which brings us back to the “I’ll be your best friend” sentiment. You are effectively asking your boyfriend for something with nothing in return. By not marrying, you have kept your finances separate. You have gotten this far on your own. There is a lot to be said for that.

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You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at qfottrell@marketwatch.com.

By emailing your questions, you agree to having them published anonymously on MarketWatch. By submitting your story to Dow Jones & Company, the publisher of MarketWatch, you understand and agree that we may use your story, or versions of it, in all media and platforms, including via third parties.

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My ex-wife passed away. I’m the beneficiary on her life insurance. Her family wants me to pay her funeral expenses and won’t leave me alone

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I am 32, and just a month ago I found out that my ex-wife, whom I haven’t spoken to since we divorced, passed away tragically in a moped accident. My ex-wife had life insurance through her job. My ex-mother-in-law informed my father that my ex-wife had kept me as her beneficiary on her life-insurance policy, and her family wants the money for funeral costs, bills, etc.

Not only did my ex-wife have me on her policy as the primary (and only) beneficiary, she updated my home address on the policy after we divorced. Also, I found out through the insurance company that my ex-wife had two term life-insurance policies, one for me and one for my ex-sister-in-law.

I blocked my ex-in-laws, and now I received a threatening voicemail from a blocked number, so I’ve taken it upon myself to notify the authorities. I live in New York, I am remarried, and my divorce was very simple and easy. We left the marriage with what we came into it with. The life-insurance company approved the check in my name, and is sending it to my home.

Am I legally in the clear? I have not spoken to or bothered these people once since we divorced five years ago. I just want to be left alone and move on with my life.

Thank you very much in advance.

Best regards,

Fed-Up Ex-Husband

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com, and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Fed Up,

First, I’ll deal with your life insurance concerns, and then the subject of your ex-wife’s funeral expenses.

The life-insurance policy was between your ex-wife and her insurer. It’s possible to overturn a life-insurance policy if it explicitly goes against the terms of a divorce decree, as happened in this case, but that too was a complicated lawsuit. Some states do have statutes that can revoke such beneficiary arrangements.

In “Kaye Melin and Metropolitan Life Insurance,” the children of the deceased were awarded the proceeds from the life-insurance policy, not the ex-wife who was named as beneficiary on the agreement. In that case, the law presumed that what her ex-husband wanted after their divorce was incorrect.

The ruling stated: “Thus, if a person designates a spouse as a life insurance beneficiary and later gets divorced, Minnesota law provides that the beneficiary designation is automatically revoked. At least twenty-eight other states have enacted similar revocation-upon-divorce statutes.”


‘I’m reluctant to say that you are ‘in the clear,’ given previous court rulings, and statutes in some states on the revocation of named beneficiaries post-divorce.’

I’m reluctant to say that you are “in the clear,” given previous court rulings, and statutes in some states on the revocation of named beneficiaries post-divorce. In your case, it seems clearer that your ex-wife wanted you to be the beneficiary. She did, as you say, update your address. It would be hard to see a more explicit sign of her intentions than that.

“Unless the policyholder of the life-insurance plan changes the beneficiary designation officially, the people originally named will remain the beneficiaries through the life of the policy,” according to Heban, Murphree and Lewandowski, a law firm in Toledo, Ohio. “Even if the policyholder was not on speaking terms with the individual upon his or her death, that beneficiary would still receive the income.”

“In the case of someone who divorced and remarried, the policy may name the first spouse as beneficiary. If the policyholder never changed the policy to reflect the divorce and remarriage, the ex-spouse could end up with the benefit. This can cause the current spouse and any children from the second marriage to dispute the beneficiary designation on the policy,” it adds.

But much, I suspect, would depend on what state you live in, and the specifics of your case.

On a separate issue, it’s difficult to glean from your letter whether your in-laws had little funds to pay for the funeral expenses, or were mad as hell that you were listed as beneficiary and felt you should contribute, or both. On the one hand, it seems like they are not in a state of mind to be reasonable and, chances are, if you did engage it would lead to further demands and acrimony.

Perhaps you could talk to your ex-wife’s lawyer and see if there is enough money to cover the costs of her funeral and, if not, you could make a contribution. But given the alleged harassing phone calls, their anger and grief, and their antipathy toward you, you would need to have all correspondence go through the attorney and refrain from any direct communication.

There is no excuse for their taking their grief out on you. Still, spare a thought for her family. If you are fed up, imagine how they feel.

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These money and investing tips can help you when inflation is burning a hole in your wallet

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Don’t miss these top money and investing features:

These money and investing stories, popular with MarketWatch readers over the past week, focus on helping you make sense of the recent spike in U.S. inflation. Understand how rising prices can affect your investment portfolio, and taking appropriate steps now to respond, can prevent unpleasant surprises later.



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