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confused about my dear SIL

Posted by melissas (My Page) on
Mon, Jan 21, 08 at 17:06

My SIL has gone above and beyond the call of duty with my mil and fil. My mil has alzheimers, and my sil and her husband built a large addition on to their home and moved my in-laws in with very little help from my husband and his brothers. I think she is heroic, and I really respect her.

My problem is this: when my in-laws moved in, my sil bought them a new washer for $700. At Christmas she informed her siblings of this, and told them they each now owe her $140. I am now conflicted! I don't like that she spent money on our behalf without telling us; I don't like that She spent so much money for a washer for a woman who won't be using it much longer; I don't like that she TOLD us we now owe her money; I don't like that we are now going to try to stretch our tight budget to come up with the money. I want to be the steward of my money. On the other hand my sil has been very generous with my in-laws, and I don't want to complain about $140. My husband didn't say anything at all to her about it, because his younger brother went off on a tirade when my sil told them about the $140, and he didn't want to add to the quarreling. My in-laws don't need the money, and they could have paid for the washer on their own. Any thoughts?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: confused about my dear SIL

This is a "their side of the family thing" and you will want to keep some distance. Let them handle it. If $140.00 is a make-or-break amount in this much-greater scheme of things as you've described it, your husband's side of the family has a whole lot going on that I doubt you want to get tangled up in. In any event, let your husband and his siblings work it out. This is all theirs. Your job is to love and support your husband. Don't let $140.00 become an issue between the two of you.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

Is it possible that the large addition on "their" home was paid for by your in-laws? I may be way off base, and I am only mentioning it because I know of a family where the daughter in law invited the in laws to move in with them, on the condition that they paid for a large addition on this SIL's home. It just reminded me of this other family, but may have nothing to do with your DH's family.

I would not let $140 cause family strife. On the other hand
if they are using up your in-laws savings (for a large addition) savings that your in laws may need for long term care, I would be very concerned. A friend's dad lived 10 years with severe alzheimers disease, and needed round the clock care in a nursing home. The immediate family needs to be fully aware of your senior in-laws financial status, and must be fully educated on what these nursing homes and care cost per month (in the thousands per month) should it become more than any family member is capable of handling in their home environment. Make sure that you are gathering information on all of this, because there are all sorts of things you need to know..."now"...before they actually need the care. Have all of the children of your in-laws working together regarding not only their finances, but what they need to know now, instead of later, so that they are not left without options, should they need options in the future regarding their care.

In some ways, I hesitate to even mention this, because I imagine that your brother and SIL are wonderful, caring people, and after all, they are graciously caring for your in-laws. However, I imagine that there are some people who would feel that because they are doing this, that they should be given financial help, and no one wants to find that the in-laws money is gone, and discover they need long term, full time care, and there is nothing left to pay for it with.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

Thank you both for your wise advice. My in-laws are extremely conservative and are not quick to talk about money issues with anyone. That said, it's now obvious (and thanks for making it obvious to me) that there needs to be a "family meeting" where their future care and the state of their finances can be discussed. I will strongly suggest this to my husband. Apparently my SIL has expectations for my husband and her brothers which they are not aware of, and they need to discuss them. But after "strongly suggesting" I think I'll step out (as suggested by the first poster), and let my husband and his siblings work it out.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

I think it is the right thing to do, to step out and let the adult kids work this out for their parents. Someone in the family needs to "get the facts, and not assume" which each long term facility with full time care costs per month, and are there waiting lists that you need to have their name on "now" because I imagine that some of these places have waiting lists of 3-4 years long.

There have been books written on what you need to be very aware of financially "before" you actually need the help, so the time to do the research is now. The articles I have read on this subject mentions that the biggest mistake most families make is not getting the information and ducks in a row, early enough, and having big problems later on because they did not do their homework ahead of time.

The first thing I would do would be to talk to as many people as possible, who have been through this already as a family, and ask them about the financial issues regarding long term care. I would then get a book or two on the subject, and follow up with the long term care facilities about their waiting lists, and how long the lists are, and what it costs per month for a client with alzheimer's disease. Do they need to somehow protect their assets for this possibility?

Anyway, your family needs advice from those who have in depth knowledge in this area. I am not that person. I would also check the forum to see if their is a forum on this, because you may also find help from people who have been through all of this and can offer advice, but this does not take the place of people who do this sort of thing for a living, or people you know personally who have been through it.

It is lovely that your SIL and brother in law are caring for your in-laws. Just remember, as the alzheimer's progresses, it may become more than anyone is capable of handling at home.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

I too would suggest to stay out of any arguement side of it; it's not your family. And try your best never to get into any type of fight or disagreement with relatives over money especially that small of an amount. Money is just not really worth losing relationships over and I've seen it done so many times. And, remember, "Everyone" thinks "they" are the one getting cheated or paying more.

I think your husband's parents are going to have expenses that are going to have to be split between the siblings. To me, it sounds like you need to chip in for the washer without complaint. Granted maybe they won't use it for 20 years, but you can't really expect your BIL and SIL to pay a bigger percentage of it because of that. If they need a washer, they need a washer. How would you have handled it differently if they were living with you? --bought a used one that may not work for $40 at a garage sale, asked everyone first and risk some siblings crying/fighting about it, just fork out all the money yourself? What is the right answer?

"If" BIL and SIL are doing as much as you say, everyone is going to need to find a way where all the parent's expenses are split equally between you kids. Granted your parents may have money themselves, but if your B-SIL are using their money instead to buy the food, and necessities, etc. for your parents then there will be more money for you to inherit so it really shouldn't work that way. Personally, I think your husband's parents should be paying them some sort of room and board to make everything fair, and all the siblings need to split the big expenses if the parents can't afford them. And even if the parents did help pay for the add on, as long as they were in sound enough mind and not totally being taken advantage of, I don't see how it's really anyone elses business.

Let your husband handle it, and try very hard not to get in disagreements over money even with him. If you want to offer to take care of them yourself.. then you may get to make the decision about the washer, etc, but until you volunteer to do that, I'm not sure you can really complain all that much about what is going on.

Sounds like a family meeting is in order. I do think you should be there, just to know what is going on (not to necessarily voice your opinion) because financially this sounds like it may greatly effect your family so you should know what is going on and what options are available. Just let your husband handle any confrontation.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

Carla, I agree with you up to the point where you said:

"Even if the parents did help pay for the add on, as long as they were in sound mind, and not totally taken advantage of, I don't see how it's really anyone else's business".

This is where I disagree. Because if they did use the Sr. in-law's savings account to pay for a large addition on SIL and BIL's home, and let's say that it turns out that SIL and BIL are not able to provide for their care if the alzheimer's progresses to a point where they need full time nursing care, and now there is not enough money left in their savings for "extended full time care, which could go on for years, at the cost of several thousand a month", then it is possible that the rest of the family would now have to contribute a significant amount of money each month, if the Sr. in-laws savings was instead used for a large addition onto a home that did not belong to them, and the other siblings will have no ability to sell to come up with the money for mom's long term care". So a decision by one sibling, (an addition onto their home) may very well affect the other siblings financially.

I want to again make it a strong point that this may not even be the case with her dear SIL and BIL. But if something like this was done, a decision like this should have been agreed upon in a family meeting, because it could, in essence, affect the other siblings, and what they could one day have to financially contribute to long term care.

Again, I know so little about any of this, but someone should.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

`But if they are of sound enough mind to make the decision, it's not really anyone else's business. I'm not talking about a sibling making the decision for them; I'm talking about the parents making the decision. If they want to buy a new cadillac or invest in a lakehouse property or give all thier money to Jerry's Kids, that is their business. Kids really don't have any right to tell their parents how to spend their money. Now if someone thought the parents were being lied to or pushed into something they don't want to do, then fine, but for this example (which is probably not even the case here) the parents may really choose to want to spend their money this way.

The parents may have simply wanted a family environment to live in and it was agreed upon that they would pay for an addition if they would be allowed to live there as long as they could-- be it 2 weeks or 20 years. Maybe to them it is a good investment. Plus, I would bet the father will stay with the B-Sil even if the mother has to be institutionalized; Don't you think? He could be there years. Plus, if their life savings if going to be eaten up, it's best that some of it goes somewhere. It's not a given that any sibling will have to pay any bill. If they run out of money, they can apply for gov. aid. The parents may not even want their children to have to pitch in for their bills. And I doubt all family members are just willingly going to offer to pay bills especially if some of them really don't have the money. You don't really think these parents want to run 5 families or how ever many there are, into bankruptcy by asking the kids to take over the medical bills? That may work in the movies, but unless they're all doctors, it's probably not gonna happen... they'll probably both die in big debt... but at least FIL will be at the home of a loved one (who will probably have to fork out a lot of money themselves for him just staying there).... Where else would the father live and who would help take care of him (with all his money drained) if not for the add on? Wouldn't the siblings just have to fork over even more money to pay for his expenses?


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

Thanks, again, for all your wise advice. It is unclear as to how much my in-laws actually gave my SIL for the addition, if anything. But clearly my SIL has expectations for her siblings that need to be discussed. We definitely need a family meeting.

And thanks for all the wisdom on my MIL's future care. My grandfather had Alzheimer's, and my grandmother desperately wanted to keep him at home and care for him, and she just couldn't do it. My friend's MIL has Alzheimer's, and for about 2 years the MIL lived with her before my friend couldn't take it anymore. Both my grandfather and my friend's MIL ended up in a long term care facility. So I think we're naive to think that the siblings will be able to care for my MIL until the end of her life. Obviously we need some professional input on this. So thank you very much. Your kind words are the impetus I need.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

This has nothing to do with OP's post, just generic conversation about long term care, in response to Carla's post.

Yes, the parents do have the right to give all their money to one sibling, or buy cars and vacations, or give it all to the nice family next door. However, should seniors make choices such as these, and end up with very little savings should they one day need this savings for long term care, I imagine that they will have regrets if they end up in a low end nursing home, (due to lack of savings), versus the lovely new one, with the lake view, that their savings may have bought them. You say that it is no one else's business if they "choose" to keep giving their money to just one of their children. Of course they have that right. It is their savings. But I hope that they are aware that should they choose to give their savings away, it may put them in a spot they don't want to be in.

And so the rest of the siblings will now have to deal with a lifetime of guilt, and work through it, from seeing their parents in the low end nursing home, instead of the lovely one with the lake view. They know they shouldn't feel guilty, after all, the parents did what they wanted with their money, giving all to one sibling, (or whatever they used it for) but every time they visit their parent in the depressing place they will feel guilty. And the behavior of the sibling who kept taking their money really created a situation that caused every one else in the family anguish. So their actions affect others. So, in a way, it is the business of other siblings, since they will be affected by it one way or another.


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back to actual subject

Meslissas: I wanted to get back to the actual subject of your post, as we have taken a turn away from what you actually were asking. I agree with Asolo, that this is "their side of the family thing" and you want to keep some distance. Let them work through it. Second, $140 should not ever be something that causes hard feelings within a family. Let it go, and be gracious that your SIL and BIL have so kindly volunteered to take care of your in-laws. What a gracious, selfless act of love. I wish I had started a separate post regarding the other issues I brought up, as perhaps they should not have been attached to your post, as they had nothing to do with your actual question, and perhaps only serve to confuse things. I will apologize in advance if this is so. It just reminded me of someone else I know, and should have stayed separate.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

Just an opinion...but based on considerable experience within my own extended family.....

My father was the last to die of three brothers so my parents got to observe the consequences of poor planning and secrecy among the families of my uncles. Seeing the hash they made of it, my parents decided openness was the way to go for themselves. Accordingly their finances and estate plans were opened to their four children -- of which I am one. There are some differences among us, but keeping the the "books" open has avoided all the hassles the other families experienced. In our case, I was named executor and attorney-in-fact. I have reported financial status regularly to my siblings for over a decade. When something unusual occurs, I have made them aware of that also. Everyone's included all the time, the "books" remain open to all and, as a result, there have been no suspicions of any kind from the beginning until now. In terms of estate planning, there have been some disbursements and some gifts. From time to time, we've needed some infusions of cash from us kids. However, at no time has anyone had cause to think they'd been excluded or treated unfairly. Notwithstanding the personal differences we've had over the years -- and there have been several instances -- everyone knows where the money is, how it's being spent, and where the remainder will go in the end. It really has made a terrific difference compared with what occurred in the other families.

If there is trust and respect enough among siblings, I would recommend this course to everyone. In those many cases where it's not possible, I recommend decision-making power in the hands of a single person but with regular reporting to the others regardless.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

I would pay the $140, but have a family meeting WITHOUT your DH's parents to discuss how large items will be split in the future (I say without them in order to not embarrass them). I think you need a separate full family meeting to "open the books", so to speak.

I also disagree that the OP should stay out of it - I'd say it depends on the family. My MIL has a difficult financial situation, but everything is all super-secret. We attempted a family meeting years ago, when my FIL was still alive, and she basically said, "it's my money and my business". But when something breaks or a big bill comes up, someone has to pay for it. Since I am the breadwinner and billpayer in our family, that means I pay for our share. I disgree that DH should have a conversation with his sister and brother and commit our money when I am the one that knows what we can and cannot afford. Last year she needed a major appliance, which we paid for. Now she needs another one. I found out DH's brother paid off a credit card balance. It is spinning out of control and no one knows what anyone is paying because no one will TALK. I feel like this thing is hanging over our heads and when the crap hits the fan someone is going to have to bail her out (so to speak, I hope we never have to actually post bail!). We are willing to do our fair share, but I'd prefer to not operate in emergency mode.

Good luck.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

"it's my money and my business"

This is probably the most common objection. And understandable. Except, it won't stand in face of incapacity when someone else has to handle everything -- which is precisely what happens in the face of other-than-sudden demise. I encourage people to pop that irrational bubble whenever they are able. The usual barrier is distrust and/or tradition. Distrust is insurmountable. Tradition should fall in the face of logic and practicality.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

And since it is none of our business what they "choose" to do with their savings, how does it become our business when they have wasted it all, and now need bailed out? And for the record, I am "not" talking about the hardworking parent, who has lived conservatively, and ran into financial problems due to medical issues. I am talking about the parent who is "choosing" to consistantly give money to a sibling who doesn't
work, or feels entitled to live beyond their own means, and expects the parent to supplement the yuppie lifestyle, buying their adult children/grandchildren cars, houses, outrageous weddings, and dwindles it all away because it is their money to do with what they want. They have every right to do whatever they want with their money. Just don't make your adult children feel guilty when those life "choices" lead to the frugal, dated, nursing home, instead of the lovely new one with the lake view.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

whenever my mom and dad bought anything for late grandma they just paid for it themselves. Whenever my aunt bought anything, she and my uncle gave my parents a receipt and asked to pay a half of it. To avoid conflct (my mom's style-do everything to avoid conflicts) my mom always paid her half. I found it to be unfair to my parents, but sometimes it is the way to do it, so there is no argument.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

Cynical maybe, but building a wing onto the house gratis & sending a bill for $140 after the fact don't sound within the same character;
I'd bet money exchanged hands for the construction of that wing.

I once did some work for a woman whose sister had gotten their parents involved in something like this.

Daughter #1 lived nearby & Daughter #2 lived out of state.

The father had Alzheimer's, & the mother, though fragile herself, took care of him.

At some point, #1 talked her parents into building a new home "together" where the parents would have their own wing & #1 could care for them forever.

It involved parents deeding their home & acreage to #1.

#1 gets a loan, secured by the property, & builds a big brick house in front of parents' little frame house, but, too bad, within just a few months after they close, her parents are suddenly in need of too much care for #1 so she applies for a subsidized nursing home for them.

At this point, #2 hears about it for the first time.

#2 has been talking to her parents all along, but they have been cautioned to keep all this stuff a secret because #1 told them that #2 "wants to control everything & will put you in a home".

#1 was smart to want to keep it a secret.

#2 is a banker married to a lawyer.

#2 sues for conservatorship & for reimbursement from #1, government denies subsidized care because assets have been transferred to a child within the "look-back" period.

#2 has to pay for care for her parents because #1 won't let them stay in *their own house* until litigation is settled, claims it's now hers & she needs to put tenants in it to pay her legal bills;

#2 says #1 obtained the house fraudulently & does not have the right to rent it until litigation is settled & unless the court finds that #1 does own it;
otherwise, #2, as conservator, should determine what is done with the house, & if it's rented, the rent should go to their parents.

By the same token, #1 can't sell the house she's built because there's a cloud on the title due to #2's suit which claims #1 obtained the land it's built on by fraud.
At that point, I lost track of the family,
don't know how things finally fell into place.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

"Cynical maybe, but building a wing onto the house gratis & sending a bill for $140 after the fact don't sound within the same character"

Funny - My first thought was that SIL was so 'fed up to here' after none of the other siblings came forward to help pay for the addition or help with Mom & Dad's that she snapped and pulled a petty "last straw" maneuver.

But in any case -- I'd agree that it's long past time for a family meeting. All of the siblings need to reach some agreement as to financial and logistical matters so all of the work doesn't fall on one sibling and his/her spouse and so the division of the estate (or care expenses) doesn't cause a permanent family rift.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

Melissa, hope everyone can work things out in a manageable manner. Hearing all these other situations make me so happy to have my MIL and FIL. Everything has been laid out in such a precise manner. They have living wills. They insisted on DH and I having both our names on their bank accounts. They sold their home a few years ago (a couple hours drive away from us) and rented a senior apartment much closer to us. They are both mid-late 70's with potentially very serious health problems but are able to completely take care of themselves right now. If they are ever not able to take care or if one of them dies, they would move to an assisted living facility. Then, when it is at all necessary, they would move to a nursing home ON THEIR OWN. They informed us of their decisions, also of any funeral plans and have it all in writing and in legal documents. They have a daughter who lives about 4 hours away but is busy with her husband's several businesses and a blind autistic retarded adult child, so her hands are more than full. Their other son lives across the country, so we are here to help them with serious stuff, or just moving the tv set for example. I love that they are so prepared and so determined to not be a burden to anyone. The other siblings are just fine with everything. MIL and FIL have already distributed momentos, photos, etc. and do not have much personal stuff to worry about. Gotta love them and their preparedness. They are the greatest couple in a million ways.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

Thanks again, everyone. This weekend I spoke to my DH, and suggested that he get his siblings together for a meeting. I told him that I had great respect for my SIL, but she obviously had expectations for him (and his brothers) if she thought it was okay to spend money on his behalf. I suggested it was better to get all of that out in the open, plus discuss future bills and future care for his mother. Now I'm going to step back and let him do what he feels necessary to do. By the way, I don't think he's sent a check to his sister yet. So we'll just see what happens.


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RE: confused about my dear SIL

sweeby...
could be!


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