My sibling ‘borrows’ hundreds of thousands of dollars from our parents. Should I take my inheritance now before it’s too late?

Dear Quentin,

One of my siblings has been having “cash flow” issues, and has been asking for help from the family. This sibling lives at home, and has no college degree and has abused other family members’ credit by opening credit cards, resulting in late fees and interest, and borrowing money without repaying it. Once, a family member was berated for asking for their money back.

Once in a while, they will ask for money to buy cryptocurrencies or invest in a business, and later claim that the business was not successful. Our parents have given hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past decade. What would you do? I’m doing fine working a full-time job, and I understand that our parents’ money belongs to them, and they decide how to spend it. 

However, I’m fearful that one day when I need help, our family funds will have all been spent helping this sibling. Should I ask for money now before it runs out?

The Well Is Running Dry

Dear Running,

The call from the scammer — in this case — is coming from inside the house.

The best thing you can do now is make sure you are everything this sibling is not: financially independent, honest, kind and upfront. Help yourself by making sure you will never have to rely on your parents’ inheritance. Help your sibling by no longer enabling them, and help your parents by holding a family meeting to talk about being badgered, berated and bewildered by this family member. Do not normalize this behavior. Your family should not be taken hostage — financially or emotionally — by one sibling. It’s time to cut them off.

Your sibling appears to see dollar signs at the bottom of your parents’ teacups. Don’t do the same, and allow this to lead to a free-for-all where all your siblings tap your mother and father for money Your parents’ financial security and safety must come first. Help them organize their estate plan, with an attorney and, if necessary, set up a family trust to put the rest of the family money beyond the reach of this sibling — I am assuming that amounts to at least hundreds of thousands of dollars. No more enabling. The word “no” gets easier the more you say it.

‘The word “no” gets easier the more you say it.’

— The Moneyist

Now, a warning. The fear of reprisal for not agreeing to your sibling’s demands raises a red flag. Undue influence, duress and pressure on an individual who has lack of capacity could constitute elder abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse, a government agency affiliated with the U.S. Administration on Aging, and the nonprofit National Adult Protective Services Association both have resources and can provide help with the steps you can take to report any alleged abuse. First it’s a favor here and a favor there; next it’s clothing, jewelry and expensive artworks.

Given the amount of money involved, this could get worse before it gets better. Elder abuse affects an estimated 5 million Americans annually, according to the National Council on Aging, and multiple agencies say that number is increasing and underreported. Your family could be under some kind of undue influence or duress. The fact that it’s been going on for so long — including stolen credit-card information, which really should be reported to the police — is concerning. If your credit has been compromised, contact the credit bureaus to lock it.

As your parents age, they will become even more vulnerable. When a person is isolated by a partner or an adult child, friend, neighbor or caregiver, the results can be catastrophic to a person’s health and finances. “Undue influence is a psychological process that may be used against an older person as a means of committing two forms of elder abuse: financial exploitation or sexual abuse,” according to the National Center on Law & Elder Rights. The worst thing that can happen is that this kind of bullying and harassment be allowed to continue.

The longer this is allowed to continue, the worse the situation will get.

Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. 

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The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

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