Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

He fears he'll be stuck paying for sister's home improvement

DEAR HARRY: I'm 42 years old and have been reading your column forever. My mother is 70, and she's selling her house to move in with my cash-strapped sister. I have no problem with that because they will help each other and have always gotten along well. We have strong family ties, and years ago we all approved of my mother putting me in charge of her money if she is unable to manage. I just found out from my other sister that mom is paying to have my sister's house modernized. A lot of work is being done, and neither of them has much money. Mom apparently hopes that the sale of her house will take care of everything. However, my wife is concerned that mom will be in debt and we'll be stuck with paying it. What's the score here?


WHAT HARRY SAYS: Unless you have agreed to be responsible for her debt, you're off the hook. The power you have is for management, not responsibility. However, since you are in a close family, you could feel ethically responsible. Have you created the opportunity to speak to your mother about this? If you don't have a power of attorney, get one prepared for you by a lawyer. This will put you into a legal relationship that will protect both you and your mother. Don't delay.


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Harry Gross Daily News Personal Finance Columnist
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