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Help with difficult family situation
Old 08-11-2009, 11:18 AM   #1
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Help with difficult family situation

Hello everyone. I've been lurking on this forum for awhile now and I've found myself in a difficult family situation that I'd like to get the forums opinion on. I'm really at a loss at how, or if, I should proceed. So, here's the situation.

A couple of years ago, my brother was facing foreclosure on his home. He stopped paying the mortgage and was about 10 months delinquent. And he had no source of income. I'm guessing at the time, he probably had 150k worth of equity in the house, maybe up to 200k, assuming his loan around 100k (it was less) and the house was worth 250-300k (another house in his neighborhood sold for 350k). Of course, this was a couple of years ago, when real estate prices were higher.

So at the time, my brother was equity rich, but cash poor and about to lose all of his equity. This is where our mother decided to help out, and where the problem begins. My mother purchased the house from my brother and took out a new mortgage, with a line of credit on the equity. You can probably see where this is going. Since there was no income, the line of equity was used to pay the mortgage, plus a bunch of additional bills that accumulated since there was no income.

Well, fast forward to today and the equity line has been sufficiently utilized and there's still no income on the brother's part. There should still be enough equity, where if everything was sold, then the all of the debt would be payed with some leftover. But naturally, the longer this proceeds, the higher the chance there won't be enough.

So now comes the hard part. Our mother has told my brother that she isn't going to take any more money from the line of equity. Either he starts paying the mortgage, or the house will be sold. My brother took the easier route of avoiding all conversation with family. He basically disappeared for the last month (not answering phone, etc). We had a family get together the other day where everyone was here, but he avoided my mother. I visited my mother the other day, and she asked me if he mentioned anything about the house. He didn't. I offered to give him a call (he usually answers when I call) and ask him. I figured I could at least give him a heads up and see what his plans are.

Well, that's where the sh*t hit the fan. I gave him a call last night, and within about 10 seconds of conversation, he got defensive, yelling, angry, irrational, all of the good stuff (sigh). I did my best to keep calm and reiterated the point that I didn't want to get involved, but that he needs to communicate more with our mom instead of avoiding the problem. He doesn't see why our mother can't just write the check every month from the line of credit. Eventually he hung up. I called back, left him a message (he didn't answer) saying I'm sorry I brought it up, he should deal with it with our mother and for him to take care.

Unfortunately, I don't see a way for this to end well. Our mother is trying to retire (she's 66). Her retirement funds are minimal as it is, but with social security and a little bit of money saved up, she can probably get by ok (barely). She surely doesn't need the drain of dealing with his house. What I worry about is that eventually my brother's house drives her in the negative and she starts losing her own money. At this point, we're the ones that would most likely have to make up the difference (curse of the responsible sibling). I realize there's probably a number of you that say I shouldn't get involved, but this is the primary reason I want to get this resolved. If our mother can't afford to get by every month, we're the only ones that can help her out. We have a vested interest in making sure that her finances are in order.

As for my brother, after last night's conversation, I see that he's only thinking about himself. He'll pretty much make up anything on the spot to get sympathy for his sitation. He's also convinced that everybody is trying to steal from him (he's made the claim that my mother/sister have used his equity). One example he brought up is that his girlfriend - with whom he has two children, 3 and 1 - was trying to steal money from him. He went as far to say that this is why he stopped paying his mortgage in the first place and why he needed to transfer the house to our mother, so he wouldn't lose his equity. Complete BS. Another problem is that he thinks he has more equity than he probably has. He kept saying he still has 100k in equity. I don't know the numbers right now, but I doubt it's that high, especially with the drop in real estate values.

At the time, I know my mother was hoping that he would eventually start working, show income, and be able to buy the house back from her. But this isn't going to happen and now she's trying to figure out how to get rid of this house.

This is where I wanted to ask the wisdom on the forum. My mother is thinking of contacting a real estate attorney to help get rid of the house. She's willing to auction it (it's not in a sellable state, kitchen/electrical is not done) or any other way to get enough money out of the house to pay off the debt.

The hard part is dealing with my brother. I'm not sure she has the heart to follow through, but since my brother isn't communicating with her, she figures she'll just find somebody else (ie. real estate lawyer) that can take care of everything without any interaction with my brother. I'm skeptical on how well this would work.

So, any advice on how my mother can ditch the house?

I just don't see how this can end well. In the end, I'd like to make sure my mother is taken care of, her assets are protected, etc.

Any advice, opinions, etc, is greatly appreciated.
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Old 08-11-2009, 11:25 AM   #2
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Why does your brother have no source of income? Is he looking for work? Is he not looking for work? If he did look for work, what kinds of jobs might he do?
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Old 08-11-2009, 11:36 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forum. What a first post! Family, money, strife...

Unfortunately, there is no easy way for Mom to ditch the house without ditching her own credit.

Enabling your brother is what got her into this mess- another case of no good deed goes unpunished. Your brother sounds like he has other issues (no income, girlfriend and two kids he can't support, denial, anger, complulsive lying, etc. ... drugs? alcohol? gambling? mental health issues?- I'd look for the root cause, if you don't already know it...)

She needs to get him out of the house so she can sell it. He isn't going to make it easy to show or sell. The unfinished remodeling sounds like stay-in-place sabotage... If she can't sell it she needs to quit pouring money into it for his benefit. Consult a RE agent for a market analysis, an attorney for legal options.

Unfortunately, the family needs to come to grips with the fact that your brother has fleeced your mom out of her savings and put her retirement in jeopardy. I'd suggest a family meeting/intervention- if he doesn't show or things don't go well, decide without him. Maybe in this case an estrangement isn't so bad - A symbiotic relationship is healthy, a parasitic relationship isn't.

Good luck, and keep us posted. This situation has so many different ways to go wrong...
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Old 08-11-2009, 11:37 AM   #4
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I'm so sorry you are dealing with this. I would tell your mother to go ahead and sell the house as she needs to take care of her own financial future. Your brother will have to find another place to live, and to pay for it, but he should have been paying for his housing all along so that is really not an additional hardship on him.

Your brother may have medical issues if he truly believes your mother and his girlfriend are stealing from him, but regardless, your mother should proceed to sell the house imho.

Again, sorry about the situation.
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Old 08-11-2009, 11:41 AM   #5
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Man, what a mess! You have my sympathy.

If you can bolster your mom's resolve (and not just once, but keep on supporting her through the process) the real estate lawyer is the way to go.
If she's willing to auction it and it isn't otherwise in sellable condition, then that sounds like the best solution.

What you have to (keep) telling her is that your brother is not being helped by her economic outpatient therapy and she is really doing him a favor by giving him the boot.

I am like you, I see this ending badly, but so what if you alienate a deadbeat sibling? I have one, and I don't care if I see him or not, nor would I do anything more for him than buy some groceries for the kids.

You are doing the right thing by your mother; please continue helping her through this as he will eventually decide to start calling her up and crying about her being mean to him.
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Old 08-11-2009, 12:54 PM   #6
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Your mom's instincts are correct - get a third party involved to sell the house before it drains her retirement. Your description sounds like she has already made up her mind (smart lady!) and just needs moral support.

Above all else, make sure you and the rest of the siblings protect her from any backlash. And definitely have a trusted attorney involved from day 1.

She has more than helped the brother out in the past, above and beyond the maternal call of duty. Time for him to help himself.
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Old 08-11-2009, 04:18 PM   #7
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Something is missing here. When all this started, your brother had $200,000 to $250,000 equity. He had a few things to finish up on the house. Why didn't he finish them and sell the house? Why doesn't he find work?

Likely your brother is depressed or mentally ill in some way. IMO he needs medical attention first and foremost. You mentioned that he has suspicions that he is being cheated, suspicions that you dismiss. More evidence that he needs medical or psychiatric help.

Ha
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Old 08-11-2009, 07:37 PM   #8
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You mentioned that he has suspicions that he is being cheated, suspicions that you dismiss. More evidence that he needs medical or psychiatric help.
A strong possibility but how does one proceed here? Besides the question of who will bear the cost, it is most likely he would refuse help.
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Old 08-11-2009, 08:05 PM   #9
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A strong possibility but how does one proceed here? Besides the question of who will bear the cost, it is most likely he would refuse help.
Maybe, maybe not. But if you are getting funny, if you can't expect help from your family, what good are they?

Ha
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Old 08-11-2009, 08:14 PM   #10
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For the OP...is there any chance the brother is doing drugs? I have an older sister who got all wrapped up in nose candy, and some of the erratic behavior and no money and unable to hold a j*b issues you wrote about struck an old familiar chord.
Don't jump to any unwarranted conclusions, but do keep a watchful eye for that possibility.
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Old 08-11-2009, 08:18 PM   #11
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My wife has a distant cousin in the late 70s who has gone off the deep end. A widow, she lives alone, and would find a way to alienate every friend or relative who tried to help her, her offsprings included. She would make up stories about past helpers taking financial advantage of her, which later turned out to be all her imagination or creation once the accused were able to talk to one another and compare notes. As she is stingy and in no financial dire straits, my wife and other relatives could only leave her alone in her misery. Perhaps some medication could help, but one has to put her in a straightjacket first.
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Old 08-11-2009, 09:38 PM   #12
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Your situation is not uncommon in the rental business. The standard solution is a family relation no win, everyone gets hurt solution.
First your mother should offer, in writing with an expiration time, to sell the house, as is, to any family member or combination of family members, at a zero profit price.
When there are no takers. Your mother must legally evict him (use a fixed fee attorney specializing in evictions) and then quickly repair the damage he causes before he is set out. In all probability it will be substantial.
Second, while the inter-family recriminations are being slung around, hire a real estate agent to sell the place fast, while interest rates are still near historical lows, there are still buyers and before the selling season ends. As part of this process, be sure and get a copy of the appraisal to “prove” the equity in the house. This provides your mother with independent third party documentation to defuse his sure to be allegation of theft. Keep the realtor CMA, listing contract with the sales price and all offer and counter offers to show family members economic reality.

Remember time is not on you side, every thing must be done as speedy as possible.

Good luck
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Old 08-12-2009, 12:28 AM   #13
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Why does your brother have no source of income? Is he looking for work? Is he not looking for work? If he did look for work, what kinds of jobs might he do?
No work = No source of income. It's really quite sad, since he has really good skills with talent. He could easily work in a machine shop, do carpentry work, etc, making good money with benefits. There just seems to be a lack of motivation.

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Originally Posted by Westernskies View Post
Enabling your brother is what got her into this mess- another case of no good deed goes unpunished. Your brother sounds like he has other issues (no income, girlfriend and two kids he can't support, denial, anger, complulsive lying, etc. ... drugs? alcohol? gambling? mental health issues?- I'd look for the root cause, if you don't already know it...)

She needs to get him out of the house so she can sell it. He isn't going to make it easy to show or sell. The unfinished remodeling sounds like stay-in-place sabotage... If she can't sell it she needs to quit pouring money into it for his benefit. Consult a RE agent for a market analysis, an attorney for legal options.

Unfortunately, the family needs to come to grips with the fact that your brother has fleeced your mom out of her savings and put her retirement in jeopardy. I'd suggest a family meeting/intervention- if he doesn't show or things don't go well, decide without him. Maybe in this case an estrangement isn't so bad - A symbiotic relationship is healthy, a parasitic relationship isn't.
My brother definitely has a sense of entitlement. This is what surprised me the most in our conversation yesterday. The fact that he believes my mother has to help him and she should be happy to do it, after all, "all she has to do is write a check once a month."

The sad truth is, he really is only thinking of himself. I guess I didn't realize the extent of this until now.

As others noted later in the thread, there are deeper issues present. More so than I realized, or maybe want to realize. I'm more of the look to the future type of person and don't spend a lot of time pondering the past.

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Originally Posted by Sarah in SC View Post
Man, what a mess! You have my sympathy.

If you can bolster your mom's resolve (and not just once, but keep on supporting her through the process) the real estate lawyer is the way to go.
If she's willing to auction it and it isn't otherwise in sellable condition, then that sounds like the best solution.

What you have to (keep) telling her is that your brother is not being helped by her economic outpatient therapy and she is really doing him a favor by giving him the boot.

I am like you, I see this ending badly, but so what if you alienate a deadbeat sibling? I have one, and I don't care if I see him or not, nor would I do anything more for him than buy some groceries for the kids.

You are doing the right thing by your mother; please continue helping her through this as he will eventually decide to start calling her up and crying about her being mean to him.
My only concern with alienating my brother is to have him show up and create problems in our life. This is the primary reason I stay out of it. I don't want to deal with his baggage. Unfortunately, by calling him, I sorta got myself involved.

In thinking about it more today, I decided that I'm going to disengage. I tried calling him today (twice), but he didn't answer his phone. I don't expect I'll be talking to him anytime soon, unless I just stop by his house. This seems to be his strategy: hear something he doesn't like, hang up and don't answer the phone. I guess that's one way to deal with it.

As for why I'm disengaging, well, I only originally called to him to give him a heads up on what's going on and see if I could get an idea of what he's planning, etc. At this point, it looks like mom is going to proceed with contacting a real estate attorney and work towards selling the house. I'll be supportive of her in this regard and hopefully she'll eventually be able to get rid of the house. There's definitely going to be fallout and I think from my brother's prospective, it'll be everybody's fault except his, but at this point, I don't see any other possible outcome.

Quote:
Originally Posted by haha View Post
Something is missing here. When all this started, your brother had $200,000 to $250,000 equity. He had a few things to finish up on the house. Why didn't he finish them and sell the house? Why doesn't he find work?

Likely your brother is depressed or mentally ill in some way. IMO he needs medical attention first and foremost. You mentioned that he has suspicions that he is being cheated, suspicions that you dismiss. More evidence that he needs medical or psychiatric help.

Ha
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A strong possibility but how does one proceed here? Besides the question of who will bear the cost, it is most likely he would refuse help.
Quote:
Originally Posted by haha View Post
Maybe, maybe not. But if you are getting funny, if you can't expect help from your family, what good are they?

Ha
I really think he would benefit from talking to somebody (therapist), but I don't see an easy way to achieve this. I don't think he feels he needs help, he just wants to keep living the way he is now. Keep in mind, this isn't a recent life style change, he's been living like this for years.

The sad part, if he'd actually work, then he'd probably make decent money. Imagine this situation: having a 15 year mortgage with a $1500/month payment. Then imagine having only about 5 years left on this mortgage. Well, that was about 3 years ago. That's a pretty good situation. So how did he make payments for about 10 years? I really don't know, but it wasn't by working fulltime. I just wish whatever he did, he didn't stop until his house was paid for. I still can't believe that he screwed it up this badly.

As for family helping, well, I kinda tried that by giving him a call. I don't want to see him lose his house. My mother didn't want to see him lose his house. She honestly thought that eventually, he would get a job, be able to make monthly mortgage payments, and then have enough work history to get a mortgage in his own name and keep his house. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's going to work out.

So let me ask, at this point, how do we help more? Do we try to find him a therapist? What if he doesn't want this? Also, what if he never answers his phone, do we track him down at his house?

I realize the way I worded the above might sound a bit sarcastic, but I am asking sincerely. I posted because I appreciate any and all advice. This is a difficult situation and I'm open to all ideas (and this isn't one that occurred to me).

Quote:
Originally Posted by freebird5825 View Post
For the OP...is there any chance the brother is doing drugs? I have an older sister who got all wrapped up in nose candy, and some of the erratic behavior and no money and unable to hold a j*b issues you wrote about struck an old familiar chord.
Don't jump to any unwarranted conclusions, but do keep a watchful eye for that possibility.
I don't think so. If he didn't have kids, then maybe, but at this point, I think he just wants to live day to day and raise his kids. He seems to be slightly disconnected from reality.

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to respond. I'll make sure to update the thread as this situation evolves.
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Old 08-12-2009, 09:28 AM   #14
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The only other thing I could add is that if there is any equity left in the house (i.e., $$ after the sale), your mother could give that to your brother to forestall his I'm-being-cheated claims. I don't think she's obligated to do this as she's been making the payments but that would avoid any idea that she took over his house to make money off it.

You seem to have done all that could be expected of a concerned family member and still kept your distance from becoming too engaged in the problem--I don't know what else you could do!
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Old 08-12-2009, 11:19 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by HpRyder View Post
NeedAdvice
Your situation is not uncommon in the rental business. The standard solution is a family relation no win, everyone gets hurt solution.
First your mother should offer, in writing with an expiration time, to sell the house, as is, to any family member or combination of family members, at a zero profit price.
When there are no takers. Your mother must legally evict him (use a fixed fee attorney specializing in evictions) and then quickly repair the damage he causes before he is set out. In all probability it will be substantial.
Second, while the inter-family recriminations are being slung around, hire a real estate agent to sell the place fast, while interest rates are still near historical lows, there are still buyers and before the selling season ends. As part of this process, be sure and get a copy of the appraisal to “prove” the equity in the house. This provides your mother with independent third party documentation to defuse his sure to be allegation of theft. Keep the realtor CMA, listing contract with the sales price and all offer and counter offers to show family members economic reality.

Remember time is not on you side, every thing must be done as speedy as possible.

Good luck
NeedAdvice, this sounds like excellent information to me.

I don't really think you have much obligation (nor will it do much good) to suggest treatment/therapy/jobs to your brother. He's going to paint himself as the victim no matter what. You've done what you could by calling him, and I'd use his tactics (hide/don't answer phone) when he comes back around wanting financial help later.

Now, if he ASKS for emotional support or food assistance then that's another enchilada--please do what you can to get him some help. As I said, I have one of these siblings, and I avoid him whenever possible for fear he'll ask for financial support that I am totally unwilling to give. However, if his wife asked me for groceries, I'd show up with a carload.

Again, good luck to you and your mom.
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Old 08-12-2009, 11:24 AM   #16
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The only other thing I could add is that if there is any equity left in the house (i.e., $$ after the sale), your mother could give that to your brother to forestall his I'm-being-cheated claims. I don't think she's obligated to do this as she's been making the payments but that would avoid any idea that she took over his house to make money off it.
That's a done deal. She never intended to keep any money from the house and any money left over automatically goes to my brother. My brother also takes this as a given. Based on our last conversation, he says he transferred it to my mom to protect his equity from his girlfriend. Complete disconnect with reality, since the house was in the process of foreclosure (another 30 days and it would have been gone).

And in the end, it won't forestall the I'm being cheated claim. Even if everything went smoothly, such as getting a good price for the house, etc, he's probably overvaluing how much equity is left. And the house, in its current condition, won't get the price it could potentially get. This means he'll be upset that the house was sold for a lower price and then will come the claim that if we waited until he fixed it up, then he could have gotten more. I just don't see how we can avoid the I was cheated claim, regardless of what's done.
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Old 08-12-2009, 11:50 AM   #17
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I just don't see how we can avoid the I was cheated claim, regardless of what's done.
How does this compare with
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In the end, I'd like to make sure my mother is taken care of, her assets are protected, etc.
The prudent course of action to protect your mother’s interests would be as HpRyder suggests. Otherwise her financial well-being is at risk. Key right now is to have clear priorities, work closely with your mother and not delay.

Quote:
Likely your brother is depressed or mentally ill in some way.
This is a distinct possibility. Neither you nor your mother can diagnose or force him to seek help. The two of you, however, could see a well-qualified therapist – for just one or two visits – to help you look at this more objectively and understand that you aren’t the cause or responsible for the outcome.
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Old 08-13-2009, 01:20 AM   #18
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The only thing I'll add is that your mother should hire someone to finish the unfinished projects in the house. Otherwise it will create a big hurdle in the sale, since many buyers are not good at fixing things and can be turned away from unfinished projects.

If she can avoid an auction and go the regular sale route through a realtor, she can probably get a better price. From what I have seen from real estate auctions, the prices are extremely low and I imagine nowhere close to what they are appraised for.

Good luck.
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Old 08-13-2009, 05:09 AM   #19
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Unfortunately you DM made a mistake. She should not have never bailed him out to begin with. And if she were going to try to help, she should not have purchased the house, rather provided the cash for a note with a "This is it" warning.

From what you are saying, your brother will bleed her dry (and rationalize his actions). She needs to take a firm position and cut her losses. Sell the house, recover her money, pay him back any profit from the sale.

She will probably have to hire an attorney to evict him.

Before she goes down the legal path and forces the sale, there should probably be an intervention meeting. If he feels a little too comfortable reacting to family members that approach him, get a third-party (Do not use a mutual friend... perhaps a credit counselor) to have that discussion. He should leave that meeting knowing that he is either part of the solution or the problem. And that the problem is going to be corrected!
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