Dear Jeanne and Leonard: Our family is divided over whether our brother should have to repay the money he borrowed from our father. My two brothers think “Ritchie” needs to make good on the loans. But my sister and I want to let it drop.
Aside from the fact that Ritchie would get upset if anyone pressed him, no one really knows how much he borrowed. My father never had any formal loan agreements with Ritchie, and Dad doesn’t remember exactly how much money he lent him. Whatever the total is, though, I don’t think my other brothers’ real concern is Dad’s well-being; they only care about how much more money they’ll inherit if Ritchie pays up.
How can my sister and I persuade them to let sleeping dogs lie?
– Anonymous, Upstate New York
Dear Anonymous: Don’t try. The problem is not your two brothers; it’s Ritchie, the deadbeat who’s borrowed significant sums of money from your father and hasn’t repaid him.
Assuming your father approves, your other brothers are right to do their best to see that Ritchie honors his obligations, and this includes making sure that any loans outstanding at the time of your father’s death are taken into account in determining Ritchie’s share of the estate. As for your brothers’ motives, it’s hardly a sin for them to look out for their own interests. Indeed, why should any of you settle for inheriting less than you otherwise would just because Ritchie has chosen to stiff your father?
We understand: Ritchie will resist, and documenting the loans could prove difficult. Plus you don’t want a fight. But overlooking these loans isn’t letting sleeping dogs lie; it’s appeasing a guy who has systematically exploited his father’s generosity. And who’s to say he’s done?
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: My ex-daughter-in-law has made my 10-year-old grandson a “secondary account holder” on her credit card. My son, the boy’s father, discovered this when he opened a custodial savings account for “Ethan.” The bank ran a credit check on Ethan’s Social Security number and found he’d been issued a credit card in association with an account in his mother’s name. My son was concerned, so he spoke to the credit-card company. They told him that neither he nor Ethan could be held liable for my ex-daughter-in-law’s debt and that lots of parents list their children on their cards to help establish credit for the kids later in life. Still, my son thinks it’s inappropriate for a child this young to have a credit card, even if Ethan apparently isn’t using it yet. What’s your opinion?
– Rosemary, Greater Sacramento Area
Dear Rosemary: Our opinion is that a 10-year-old with a credit card is an accident waiting to happen. Consider this discovery a heads-up to monitor Ethan’s spending – and his credit rating. Because if his mother’s credit card can establish a good credit rating for the boy, it probably can establish a poor one as well.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: I’ve been unfairly billed for dental work. The last time I saw my dentist, he carried out what he called a “repair” on a crown I’d paid $1,200 for only three years earlier.
Based on his description of the repair, I assumed there would be no charge (it sounded like he’d failed to seat the crown properly). Instead, he sent me a bill for $140, which I paid. I included a note with my payment, though, explaining why I didn’t think I should have to pay it. The guy wrote back some unconvincing mumbo-jumbo and didn’t return my money. Isn’t he wrong?
– Oliver, Northwest Oregon
Dear Oliver: Probably so – and definitely, if he values you as a patient. But you made a mistake as well. You objected to the $140 charge after you paid the bill. It’s before a bill is paid that a service provider has a real incentive to pay attention to your concerns.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.