Dear Penny: How Do I Stop My Scumbag Siblings From Stealing Dad’s Money?
My family constantly hustles my father for money. They cry and tell him they’ll pay him back, but never do. He has a very small pension and Social Security. We're talking hundreds to thousands at a time.
He always gives in, then gets irate when they won't pay him back. This has happened over and over for many years. He knows they never pay him back, but they manipulate him for more. He gives in because he doesn't want to be alone. Personally, I think he would be better off alone. Who needs a family who manipulates you over and over again?
Sibling #3 is a con-artist. She listed my father as the responsible financial party for her adult sons' dental bill. And he paid it! The same sibling has opened credit cards in his name and conned him for utility bills and bail money for her ex-husband.
Sibling #1 forged two personal checks for over $6,000. She is a felon who stole over $300,000 from clients at her previous job. This sibling resides with our father, too. She has no job after prison, is on Medicaid, and seeking disability to avoid paying restitution.
Sibling #4 works full time. He conned our father into paying his child support and is also married to a nurse.
Dad’s ex-wife and mother to all four of us conned him out of thousands for real estate taxes for several years on a house that she inherited (paid in full) from our grandparents. She blew all of our grandparents’ money. She even went into foreclosure a few years back. Sibling #3 lives with her.
I am sibling #2. I’ve been married for 27 years and have two adult children, both college graduates. We've always managed our finances amongst ourselves. We're the only ones who have never taken or asked my father for money.
Our father wants to list me as his beneficiary on his bank accounts, but I'm hesitant due to future problems with the three siblings and the ex-wife/mother. I would honor his wishes, but wish to avoid any future issues with these family members. Relationships in this family are broken and nonexistent with most.
My husband and I have tried to talk to my father about his anger over all the money. We seem to be the ones he complains to. He screams and swears at us, and we aren't the problem. So our calls and visits with him have decreased because of his behavior.
I've explained he isn't helping them by giving in. These people will never learn to dig themselves out of their own trouble. They will always find some sucker to manipulate. Any advice?
It’s easy to tell someone they’d be better off alone when you’re not facing the prospect of being left alone. Keep in mind that even the worst relationships usually aren’t bad 100% of the time. I say that not to justify your siblings’ terrible behavior, but to encourage you to think about where your dad is coming from.
I’m going to assume that your dad has the capacity to make financial decisions, even if they aren’t good ones. In some cases, it’s necessary to seek court-appointed guardianship when someone isn’t competent to manage their money, though this is usually a last resort.
Reducing contact with your dad will only make him more vulnerable. The lonelier he feels, the more likely he is to lean into other relationships, even if they’re obviously abusive. Plus, the less you and your husband are around, the more opportunity your family has to manipulate him out of money.
Try talking to your dad when he’s calm. Tell him you hate seeing how upset he gets when family members take advantage of his kindness. Ask him to talk about ways you can prevent this from happening again.
One relatively easy solution may be to convince your dad to freeze his credit. That could prevent your siblings or anyone else from taking out credit cards or loans in his name, though of course it won’t prevent them from convincing him to fork over cash with more sob stories.
Suggest that your dad meet with an attorney to discuss ways to safeguard his money. You’re right to expect a challenge if your dad makes you the sole beneficiary of any assets, but a good attorney can make his estate planning as airtight as possible. They may also suggest that your father appoint you or someone else he trusts as power of attorney to manage his money and other affairs if necessary.
Your father may very well reject your suggestions. That will be frustrating since you’ve seen the same patterns play out so many times. If he refuses to make changes, tell him you’re not going to listen to him complain about people taking advantage. If he starts screaming or swearing, tell him you’re not having this discussion again. Try steering the conversation to a neutral topic.
If he still resists, tell him you’re hanging up the phone or cutting your visit short. Say you’ll call back tomorrow after he’s had time to calm down.
Set a firm boundary. Make sure your dad knows you’re in his camp — but also that you won’t tolerate his verbal abuse. You’re only willing to have this conversation if you can make it about solutions.
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