In-laws potentially divorcing. Kids are in the middle of it and are making a mess

I know I won’t be able to do much in this situation since I’m not blood related, but I figure it’s worth venting here in case there are things I can communicate to my in-laws. BTW I’m a bit disappointed we no longer have the original FWF, as our community seems pretty sparse nowadays :frowning:

The below may or may not be a real situation, posting for entertainment purposes only.

My wife’s parents are thinking about divorce. Husband is 65 and wife is late 50s. They have worked most of their lives and have a bunch of cash laying around in several different bank accounts disbursed with their kids. They basically get paychecks and deposit it in these accounts when they decide they don’t need the money. Their names aren’t on the accounts due to [reasons – why, I honestly don’t know, but whatever]. My wife has a bank account jointly owned with one of her siblings and all the money in the account belongs to their parents. There are a few other accounts setup this way amongst the other siblings that my wife doesn’t even know about.

They purchased a condo once the husband turned 65 and transferred their property tax rate (we’re in California) over to the condo, so property taxes are quite low (~4k/year). Pretty much all the cash they have (let’s say 500k) is sitting in these random bank accounts owned by the kids.

Things have been pretty rocky the past few years but now the mom wants to split up, and in the process take advantage of the situation (I find the timing odd given their age and given they just bought the condo to transfer the property tax rate…) She wants him out of the condo and he would move out into another place for 2k a month. It’s an a HCOL area and there simply isn’t anything else lower in terms of rent. More likely than not his only other option is to move out of the country given he only has a few years left to be able to work.

She also wants to take “ownership” of 70% of the cash the kids have in the accounts. Mind you, all this money was basically 50/50 in terms of deposits, but she feels entitled to 70% of it. It was previously 50/50 until one of the siblings decided to whisper in her ear and take a bigger cut…more on that later.

He is getting the short end of the stick as the mom will be able to pay 4k/year to live in a huge place and have seemingly endless cash from the kids’ accounts to cover any expenses until she retires. She is basically stealing their retirement.

To make matters worse, two of the siblings are into investing for passive income (one of them owns a service business, the other owns a hotel and gas station). Apparently they borrowed six figure amounts from the parents and are siding with the mom as she will basically forgive their loans. My wife and her other sibling borrowed much smaller amounts for a down payment, with full intention on paying it back.

So two siblings are whispering in mom’s ear to split ASAP and take money off the table while the other two (including my wife) are trying to figure out how to see their dad for Christmas. From my limited research so far, the two investor siblings are in the red and need some cash, hence their wanting to accelerate the process.

This whole thing is going to end pretty badly; my thoughts are the parents will definitely split, and the dad is going to be left on a string while one of the “good” siblings will be on the hook to take care of him through retirement, while the “bad” siblings siphon money away and no longer need to take care of mom or dad.

I’m realizing now after typing all of that, that I’m basically just a spectator at this point and unless my wife can do anything about it, it’s out of our hands. She has tried reasoning with the two others, but they won’t budge. They actually called their dad, yelled at him, and told him to move out ASAP. From my understanding of the situation there’s really no reason for them to treat him this badly…

What say you FWFers? Anything I should/should not do in this situation? I already mentioned to my wife that there’s no way we could take her dad in, unless there were extenuating circumstances; in those circumstances we’d never talk to her siblings again (they have huge houses and can easily accommodate him if they wanted to…). We’re in a 900 sqft place with 2 bedrooms and 2 kids so it’ll be pretty rough.

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tldr version :

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Assuming you and your wife want to get involved, here are some ideas.

With the usual IANAL, if the bank accounts are in the names of the children only then the children can do with them as they please. The father might try to claim there was some sort of un-written agreement with the children but that sounds really iffy to me. And also would involve big money legal fees to try it.

How is the condo titled? If it is in both of their names, then the wife can’t make the father leave. He could force a sale of the condo and then split the proceeds with the wife.

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Thanks. I figure this post is more entertainment than anything else. My wife doesn’t have much of a say in this apparently…every time she brings up a potential resolution, the investment brothers shut it down without even considering it. They are just going to strongarm the whole thing.

My FIL is on the title, so unless he voluntarily works with her to retitle or they go through a proper split of the assets, he’ll still be on it.

My FIL is pretty ignorant about this stuff and doesn’t like conflict, which makes me think he will just give everything up. That said, he has written off all the money in the kids bank accounts since he has no legal right to it (my wife will probably just give him back his share, but the other brothers will end up keeping it). If he does decide to fight I’d probably offer some advice on the condo situation since being in a HCOL area is going to be impossible for him if he doesn’t own any of it.

Ultimately I just feel really bad for the guy as he worked his ass off for he past 30 years and may end up getting kicked out of the house he helped pay for. He’s already signed a short term lease for another place to give her “space” but I think it’ll just end up being a permanent move out for him.

It sounds like something is missing, like dad did something bad and actually feels bad about it. Maybe he has another, secret family and the wife and “bad” siblings found out? :astonished:

The “good” siblings must explain to him that he’ll be left penniless and nobody will take care of him. It sounds like the in-laws were making good money to be able to lend/gift to four children, so maybe dad is not that ignorant? Or maybe mom was the breadwinner, which is why she wants the 70/30 split?

Yes, I’m probably missing something from the story. I do know they’ve constantly argued since I met my wife (10+ years now) so it’s not super surprising, it’s just real lousy timing. Why call it off once he’s transferred property tax rates and done with his earning potential? Aside from him doing something really bad or greed on her part, I don’t know.

The split seems to be based on whatever the two brothers want out of this. I did some research and one of them owns multiple properties (he’s only confirmed one to the family, and denies any other investments…). I think this whole family is lying about financials :thinking:

I don’t doubt my wife, but you bet the farm I’m gonna cover myself if (heaven forbid) something like this happens to me.

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The lawyers almost never suggest moving out.

Correction - all the money belongs to the two siblings. It’s on the parents to show the transfer was a loan that is repayable to them, verses a gift. Even then, the parents have ownership of a promissory note, not the bank account balance.

If the parents decided to hide assets for whatever reason, they bear the burden of whatever the consequences of hiding it. Be it 50%, 70%, or any other percent she wants, she only gets what each account holder chooses to give her, if anything. That cash is not hers to take.

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Then why did he get married? :rofl:

If he decides to stand up for himself, maybe he should call: This is a two way street.

I think it actually may not, depending how the bank account is actually set up. OP would have to review specifics with the bank.
At a bank where I have some joint accounts, the paperwork specifies that the account is “owned” by the first name on the account, and that’s the SSN for reporting purposes. However, since it’s joint, any person on the account can individually withdraw a full 100% of the balance or make deposits. The “owner” is authorizing the additional account holders to withdraw fully up to 100%. No 50% implied or actually a part of the account. The control of the funds is 100% each with no restrictions, only the reporting of possible income is broken down by owner and that’s assigned 100% to the first name and 0% to the any additionals.

And in the example I laid out, it would be whatever either account holder chooses to give her, as either account holder could individually withdraw up to the whole 100% and give it. The other account holder would then have no say.

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Well, the rate transfer is just prudent. One only needs to be 55 for that, so it seems unrelated.

https://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/prop60-90_55over.htm

I think you’re supposed to do that before marriage. How are you gonna do anything now?

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Yes, I didn’t specify that part. Unless the account is set up to require two signatures for a withdrawal, anyone listed on the account can do as they wish with the full balance. My point was that if MIL is not on the account, she’s SOL unless those on the account (or at least one of them) chooses to indulge her.

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Uh, why doesn’t your wife just take all the money? She is a joint owner of a bank account with a lot of money in it – why not just ACH pull it out?

Is she worried about her relationship with the siblings or the mother, both of which sound like they’re already doomed?

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tl:dr, families can suck, here’s my story of in-law drama

I watched my FIL get kicked out of his home he owned for 30 years when his wife got tired of him and moved her adult daughter from a previous marriage into their home which created a ton of conflict between the daughter and FIL. He moved out of state back to his parents house which was empty from when his mom passed a few years prior.

He lives on a small retirement he has from his government pension and the rest of his funds go to his wife. He cashed out his 401k a decade or so ago to put the down payment on a restaurant my MIL owns without him (but he will always get a share of the business profits according to her :roll_eyes:). He does get a small allowance from the MIL but she dictates to him when it comes to money.

So some guys can be very timid, weak about this stuff. He knows he is being mistreated and/or used, but he will not divorce because he still loves her and believes her when she says she does to him as well. She will not divorce because she needs his insurance and supposedly still loves him, but she just can’t stand to be around him :man_shrugging:.

His health is declining so now it is on my wife, and somewhat, I to take care of him since he lives nowhere near anyone else. Her dealing with his health issues, his separation and her siblings is a really hoot; I just don’t know how some families become so dysfunctional. The siblings are jealous of the time she spends with him but they refuse to travel to see him and help out. The one time they did come over, they cleaned out several of his hobby collections that are worth some money so it seems clear what they are after. The real kicker is, my wife was always his least favorite daughter, (he actually told me on several occasions) and I was last place as a SIL until recently when the shit hit the fan and we stepped up to help. Truthfully, neither of us like him much, but she as a familial sense of duty to fulfill and I am supporting her.

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Good example of what not to do on many levels. Cashing out 401k without getting anything tangible out of it should be an obvious bad move but it’s still amazing how often it happens. People will lend to family without getting even a part-ownership or some kind of collateral.

Getting kicked out of house you own is also mind-boggling how one would allow it to happen. But I guess it’s some kind of natural selection where if you’re too weak (or in denial) to care for your own interests, you’re sadly at the mercy of some people who will take advantage of you.

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Granta, the literary quarterly, has themed issues of new writing. I remember way back in 1991, the title theme for the Autumn issue was “Family: They F*ck You Up”.

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All of this pooling of funds on less than a handshake seem very strange. Are they from some culture that does a lot of that?

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It sounds like there is no pooling of funds; the parent’s money is stashed in isolated accounts under the kids’ names, not in accounts the kids also use.

It reeks of trying to make themselves judgement proof. Without realizing they actually did give away all their assets.

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I’ve seen this also in situations where having personal assets (funds in personal checking accounts) would disqualify one from collecting government assistance but that doesn’t sound like the case here. I concur with your assessment.

It’s really sad to see situations like this where money gets in the way of families. Often this happens when parents pass and a will doesn’t properly specify where assets should be distributed but breakups and divorces can be messy too.

Sypathies to OP. Not much you can do but be supportive of your spouse in this case. Since the cards seemed to be stacked against your FIL, it might be prudent for your wife to transfer funds out of her joint account to hold in his name for when the fog clears but that may also cause greater family tension if it isn’t avoidable.

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