My parents have offered to *give* me between $100K and $120K to go in on a house with them. I will accept this gift, but I need some help figuring out how to handle the strings that are certainly attached. Long story.
posted by anonymous to human relations (44 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
(Yes I'd get a lawyer. I just want to know what issues to consider once I consult one.)
Last night my parents called me and told me that they had recently come into an unexpected and large lump sum of cash from a retirement settlement. They've been wanting me to get a house, and I have been wanting a house. I make a pretty paltry salary, however, and so my abilities to buy a house on my own are limited. They'd offered me money for a downpayment in the past, but I decided that it would still be too much of a financial stress. This offer changes things.
They discussed the best way give me this $100-120K for a house with their lawyer, and it seems that they have a trust that is set up to go to me and my sister upon their deaths. Their intent, however, is for me to get some of the money now, rather than in 20-30 years when they die. So the trust would own 2/3 of the house, and I would own 1/3.
There are a few conditions, however.
First, they want a house with at least 3BR and 2 baths, for them to stay in when visiting. They live 800 miles away, so it's not like they'd be dropping in often. Also, I asked them what amount of time they were expecting to spend there, and told them in no way would I want them to be there for weeks at a time. They don't want that, either. I'm OK with this string.
Second, they want veto power over the house I choose. This is to protect what they see as their investment, and their considerations would be neighborhood, condition of the house, age of the house, etc. We probably agree on these things with little concern, so I'm OK with that as well.
Other issues we discussed: I could have a housemate, as long as they could still stay there when visiting. I'd like to get a dog, and they're OK with that, too. I'd be responsible for property taxes, and we have not discussed who'd be responsible for maintenance and repairs. I'd assume that would be me. If I moved, they'd buy me out. The equity from their contribution would eventually go to me anyway, upon their death.
Overall, the preliminary discussion was reasonable. I was able to express my worries about it seeming like a business deal in the family. They understood. I asked if they'd freak if I got a lawyer for me. They were all for it--due diligence, they said.
My immediate concerns:
1) that my mother will nag me to death about house upkeep or any other things she doesn't like that I do. She does this. It's like she can't help it. I'm admittedly not very good at doing things quickly. I'm also very messy.
2) I have several step-siblings that my parents have broken all ties with.None of them did anything extremely horrible, by the way. It's been at least 8 years since my parents last had contact with these siblings. That means my full sibling and I are the only ones who are getting any of my parents money, and we're to split it 50/50. Deep in my heart, I wonder if I'd ever get the boot, too. I don't think so, but I want to protect myself just in case. It's a hot mess.
3) My mother has a history of manipulation through money. I went to an expensive private university far from home for undergrad, which they bankrolled entirely. After my first year, my mother tried to get me to move back to the area by offering to buy me a brand new luxury car if I'd transfer to the highly ranked state school nearish to them. I set my boundaries and gave a firm "No" to that suggestion. In addition, I went to grad school in a field that they did not like, and they didn't contribute. However, they repeatedly offered to pay for me to go to medical school, which I was never interested in. Final example: I have some issues with depression, and my mom is on my case at all times to exercise more. On my suggestion, she bought me a gym membership recently so that I'd do so. Money=love.
4) My sister (the only other still in good graces), has always called me the "favored child." This offer doesn't help that. My parents are aware of this problem, so the offer is a secret for now while they work out how to make this equitable. I don't want her to resent me. She lives a few blocks from them and has children. She benefits from that in many ways that aren't as tangible as a large sum of cash. Unlimited access to a beach house. Expensive dinners. Free babysitting. Spoiled grandchildren. I don't begrudge her those things at all, but it does rankle occasionally that she thinks I get everything and she gets nothing.
5. My mom is concerned that she'll die first, that my stepfather will get remarried (which she'd want) and that my sister and I will end up penniless (other than what we have from ourselves). I know that's in part her motivation to give me money now. My stepfather is 100% with her on this gift, however, as we had a conference call about it last night.
In sum, this is what advice I'm seeking:
What kinds of things should I include in a legal agreement? Is it appropriate to put limits on how often they visit, who's responsible for what, how to resolve conflicts, and such? What else should I consider that I haven't thought of? Also, what can I do to allay my fears of them rescinding in case I fall out of favor like my other siblings have? To be clear, they're saying this is a *gift* not a loan. Do I broach my mom's concern that stepfather will change his will if she dies first?
How do I navigate the interpersonal issues? I'm pretty good at setting boundaries, but I worry that such a big gift will make them think they have influence over the choices I make in life that are unrelated to the house. Or that they'd use the house as a way to try to control me.
I know that's a lot of information. I hope it's enough. If anyone wants clarification, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, I know that I'm extremely privileged, and I hope I am sufficiently humble about it. This level of privilege embarrasses me, actually, but that's another question for later, maybe.