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The Moneyist: My sister’s home is in foreclosure, so she’s moving in with our parents. She posted on Facebook that she deserves their home. What should I do?

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Dear Quentin,

My sister and her partner lost their house. It’s in foreclosure. She is moving into my parents’ house, where she will pay no rent. She claims the reason is to take care of our elderly parents. She is the worst with money, and doesn’t make a ton. She has always borrowed money.

Anyway, my parents do need the help. She is the power of attorney for my parents and will be executor of their will. I don’t know why my dad did that. My suspicion is that he is not of sound mind. She is the closest sibling and has no kids at home. She has been helping them the most, even though I come down weekly.

We said they can stay in the house, but when they pass it will be split five ways as it’s the family home. She seemed upset, like I can’t hardly even describe it. She posted on Facebook and other social media, saying that we fight for the will, but not for the care. I come down weekly to see my parents, as does my sister.

What’s more, she is getting a payment from Veterans Affairs to take care of them. Any advice will be appreciated. The will states that my parents’ home will be split equally.

HJL

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions at [email protected]. Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

Dear HJL,

You have put your sister on notice of your intentions. Without knowing her, I would say that if she is posting on Facebook about private family matters, and portraying herself as someone who wishes to help your parents (rather than help herself to your parents’ house) she is not being entirely honest with you or herself, or, indeed, her followers.

It’s early in the process to take credit for taking care of your parents, of course. If she is someone who does not do well under pressure and/or does not shoulder responsibility well, it seems that her time at your parents’ home may not go smoothly. Just because she will be paid by the VA as a caregiver does not mean she will follow through on those duties.

I receive many letters from siblings who are caregivers and, as such, believe they are automatically entitled to receive their parents’ home. Oftentimes, it’s after they have lived there for many years and their siblings have provided varying levels of support. In one such case, a daughter spent $125,000 on a home only to learn that the house was placed in a trust for the family.


‘There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to children and who gets the family home.’


— The Moneyist

In another scenario, a brother asked his brother to waive any inheritance rights should he predecease him. His sister-in-law wondered whether that was fair. I told her that the brothers should split the house 50-50 and/or give the resident single brother a life estate, but given that she had no financial worries, I suggested she give up her rights to the house.

I tell you these stories because no situation is the same, and my responses differ based on the circumstances. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to children and who gets the family home. In this case, you have been forewarned. Keep a close eye on your sister, talk to your parents and let them know you are there to help.

Given your sister’s history and current opinion on your parents’ will, assuming she knows there is a will, she makes a risky proposition as power of attorney and executor. Talk to your parents about the reasons for their choices, and at the very least suggest a co-executor and an independent party, such as a family lawyer, as power of attorney.

A power of attorney is someone who should represent the wishes of the elderly relative, and an executor is someone who should be prepared to carry out those wishes. The social media posts should be saved in case you need more evidence to challenge your sister’s role as executor of your parents’ will before or after they pass.

Your sister has laid her cards on the table face up. Now you must decide what to do about them.

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