Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My 14-year-old son saved his money and bought his girlfriend a pet pig for Christmas, something she’d spent months begging her parents for, to no avail. Well, she’s thrilled, but her parents aren’t. They say that since we allowed our son to give their daughter a pig, we need to kick in toward the expenses of keeping it. Are these guys nuts, or what?
– Stunned in Conneticut
Dear Stunned: What? These guys aren’t delighted to be paying for the food and care for an animal they didn’t want their daughter to have? How can that be?
Unless your 14-year-old son somehow bought and delivered that pig to his girlfriend without your knowledge, you owe her parents a very big apology for allowing your son to circumvent their wishes. You also should offer to take the pig back and find a new home for it. And if they say their daughter is too attached to part with her new pet, at least give them a hundred bucks toward the animal’s upkeep. Why? Because it’s an unwanted responsibility that they’re now stuck with, thanks to you.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My father-in-law, who was a successful real estate developer, has always been very generous with my wife and me. For example, he gave us the down payment for our house as a wedding present. And for several years he made the maximum possible contribution to our 6-year-old daughter’s 529 college savings plan. Unfortunately, he’s now gotten himself overextended, and is asking us to lend him a considerable amount of money to keep his creditors at bay. (We don’t have much savings, so he wants us to take out a second mortgage on our house.) I know we owe my father-in-law, big time. But I fear he’s headed for bankruptcy, and we can’t afford to lose the kind of money he wants to borrow. What’s the right thing to do?
– Feeling Squeezed
Dear F.S.: Forget the second mortgage. You shouldn’t imperil your own family’s financial security in order to stave off your father-in-law’s creditors. But you or your father-in-law can and should withdraw the money he’s contributed to your daughter’s 529 plan (there will be a small penalty). As you say, you really owe him. So insist that he take the money that’s accumulated there. Your daughter is only 6, and there’s still time for her parents to save the money she’ll need for college.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My husband and I teamed up with his brother and his brother’s wife to buy three rental properties back in 2010. Each couple put in half of the down payments, but all three houses are in only the brother’s and his wife’s names. That’s because my husband and I had short sales in 2010 and couldn’t buy property in our names at the time. Now we want to add our names to the titles. What’s the best way to do this?
– Peggy, San Jose, Calif.
Dear Peggy: What were you and your husband thinking when you bought three homes with his brother but couldn’t put your names on the titles? Seriously, what did you imagine would happen to your interest in the houses were his brother and his brother’s wife to be killed in an automobile accident while only their names were on the title (these things happen)? Or what if you and your husband were to have a falling out with this couple and they claimed that the homes were theirs alone (these things also happen)?
You need to see a lawyer – pronto – and find out the best way to protect your interests. The lawyer can give you a definitive answer to the question you asked us, plus another one you should have asked – namely: Do you or your in-laws need to worry about having misrepresented who the actual owners were going to be when the mortgages for those houses were applied for?
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.