Dear Annie: After my mother died 10 years ago, Dad asked his four daughters what to do with the small cabin he owned upstate. Three of us told him to sell it. My oldest sister, "Charlene," however, asked if she could use it as a vacation home. She said she would help pay the property taxes and make sure it was taken care of, in exchange for exclusive use and enjoyment of the property. Dad agreed.
Well, Charlene rarely paid the taxes and did not take care of the property at all. Dad retired three years ago, and told Charlene he needed to sell the place. In response, she placed two mechanics liens against it, stating that she'd put thousands of dollars of "work" into the cabin and that Dad had promised her the deed. Neither of these things is true and she has no documentation to support her claims.
When we finally gained access to the house, there were holes in the floor and the roof was falling off. We took pictures of the damage. There was a hearing and a dismissal, then an appeal and more liens and more hearings and more appeals. We thought it was over last year, but we just received another summons to appear before a different judge. Meanwhile, we cannot sell the cabin until this is resolved.
My father is a fair man who had planned to split his estate equally between his daughters. Since this lawsuit started, he has disowned Charlene and now lives in near poverty due to all of the legal fees. This is so hurtful. Dad supported Charlene, paid for her college education and two weddings. Now she is killing him one lawsuit at a time, all because she is so greedy. How can we protect him? -- Sisters
Dear Sisters: As long as Charlene keeps filing new lawsuits, your father is stuck. She, too, is incurring legal fees, but may believe Dad will give up first. If the cabin is worth substantially more than the liens, it might be possible for Dad to get a clean title and sell it, as long as money is left in escrow to pay for litigation. (Talk to Dad's attorney.) But we hope you will report Charlene for elder abuse, because forcing Dad into poverty fits the bill. Contact Adult Protective Services in Dad's area, or call the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116.
Dear Annie: I am responding to "Fed Up Sister," whose younger brother only contacts her to brag about how much money he has, how great his kids are, etc. She's ready to cut off ties.
I grew up with a friend like that. He alienated everyone with his bragging, and as the years progressed, I became one of the very few he could still call a friend. It takes great effort to listen to a person who is so insecure, but it is extremely generous to continue. I know my friend isn't likely to change. He may mellow for brief periods, but his lack of confidence will take over eventually.
Please tell "Fed Up" not to try to force her brother to be someone else. She should take him in the smallest doses she can, and chuckle to herself later about his insecurities. -- S.
Dear S.: We agree that she should try to take him in "small doses," and maintain the relationship in a way that doesn't make her resentful. Thanks.
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