Do I save my father, or save myself? Can/should I do both?
November 20, 2016 6:52 AM   Subscribe

My father was going to use all of the money in our joint savings account on a business. The money was originally intended for me; I just survived a mental health crisis that almost killed me, resigned from my job, broke up with my SO, and am recovering at one of my sister's homes in a new state. So I seized what was left of it And? From what I can extrapolate from a relative, now homeless and too prideful to go get help. I don't know what to do. Snowflakey and complications inside.

I apologize for the length and what may appear to be irrelevant details - but I wanted to include them because they're complicating my ability to make a fair decision.

My 80-year-old father decided to start a business - some sort of business where you search for next-of-kin of people who have died and left behind some sort of money. I don't remember the details. He intended to fund this business with the money in our joint bank account. He had already spent no less than $10k of the money in our joint account on two conferences in Las Vegas, where they were supposed to show him how to "make money" via this business. This sum does not include costs of lodging, travel, or food for him and his third wife, my stepmother.

When money was placed in this account, however, he had proudly declared that the account was for me - an apology, of sorts, for standing by and doing nothing while my mother abused me as a kid, teenager, and then young adult. Because I've hit so many rough patches, the account was to be used as a buffer against harsher times. As I came to regularly expect, he reneged, asserting that it was for both of us, and that I could only use the account's funding as a loan. He has not treated the account in a similar fashion, and I have watched the balance drop. He did use approx. $7k of it to fund my therapy while I had to pay out-of-pocket, but his other expenses are unknown.

But he also pushed me - hard - to become my severely-ill mother's guardian, even though he refused (at first) to allow me to withdraw money from the savings account to start the legal process. Between him and my mother's siblings treating me like shit, plus the pressures at work, I snapped and attempted suicide two weeks ago. At the last minute, I pulled back and called one of my best friends, who talked me off the literal ledge and somewhere quiet. My sister drove up to escort me home to pack a few things, and then check into the hospital for the attempt. But when I got home my then-boyfriend, who had yet failed throughout our 3-year relationship to treat his depression whatsoever, told me that he was trying to feel sorry for me, but couldn't because he was in the middle of an episode. And then he broke up with me for unrelated reasons - he'd been planning it for a while. I resigned from my job on the way to the hospital, where I was held for several days.

When I got out, I made a formal move to my sister's house; my other siblings came to visit. My father became much more willing to pay for guardianship also, but I had deliberately sabotaged my candidacy by texting my aunt that I was psychologically unfit for same. They had already taken over my mother's care entirely prior to my attempt despite my request for joint guardianship, and had been bullying me on the day that I made the attempt. They have also taken her from the hospital, a fact I learned only after calling there to discover she was discharged. After a harrowing conversation with my mother's sister, I blocked the numbers of all my mother's siblings.

This is an unnecessarily long-winded way of saying that the remainder of the money in the account would allow me to start a new, stabilized life in my new state. When I'm well enough to work, I will be able to move effortlessly into a new apartment, purchase a car, and still have enough left over to lock into a savings account. It is the financial stability that I've never - EVER - had, even though my mom had money when I lived with my parents, even though I've worked up until now.

But my father wanted it back. Aside from needing the money to start his business, he has too many debts, he said, and he was going to use the money in the account to pay them off. He was also going to use the money for genital enlargement/enhancement surgery, which I learned from a side-conversation with his third wife. I was adamant about keeping it and once I explained why I took the money, I hung up and have ignored his calls ever since.

Unfortunately, I learned through my aunt last night that he's looking for housing, as his third wife kicked him out of the house a few days ago. My sisters and I sensed that coming. While visiting me, she had asked my sisters about my dad and they reluctantly disclosed his history with mental illness, and the following associated things*: his violent abuse of my siblings (including sexual); several attempts to murder his first wife during his episodes; a stabbing event which led to his finally being placed in a psych ward and given electroshock therapy; and how, despite knowing fully well what his second wife (my mom) did to me and why (mental illness that she declined treatment for upon diagnosis, and which he kept secret), did not protect me enough even when she attempted to kill me. So he's in a hotel somewhere, and has about $900 or more on his person.

When explaining why I was shutting him out for a while, I had prompted him to take the same opportunities that he offered me while I was begging for money from the joint savings account: to take the spare room offered by my aunt in her huge-ass house, if only temporarily until he figured out where to move. To look into the very-affordable senior housing community near my brother, which would allow him to live comfortably on his SSI. I even asked my aunt to give him a call, to create an opportunity for him to ask about the room, but she reported that he made no reference to his homelessness and that he did not ask for help.

Part of me does not believe that he deserves mercy - not after what he did to me and my siblings, who he abandoned and avoided for several decades until my mom encouraged him to finally answer their calls. And I feel strongly that he should have been a better parent to me, and that he has otherwise sacrificed very little of his own comfort to help me stabilize. But I am also overwhelmed because of the repressed memory, images of him crying and desperate, thoughts that he may not even have been fully aware of the atrocities he's committed because the electroshock therapy can screw with memory. Suddenly saving myself feels very, very wrong.

I do not know how to go forward. Should I keep the money to myself, give a fraction of it back, or return all of it? And should I help him find a place to stay? What are my obligations here?

Thank you.

*I did not know any of these things, either. The sister I'm living with finally explained everything, including why they tried to reach out to me despite my father's interference. The talk about the sexual abuse triggered a repressed memory of my own, the aftershock from which I have not yet recovered.
posted by Ashen to Human Relations (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you should keep the money for yourself. Giving it to your dad would be like pouring it down the drain, and the more you give him the less you have to help yourself lead the best life you can.

Keep the money, and see if you can get your dad on some kind of assistance. Google "department of aging" for your area and contact them.

Good luck, and stay strong. You need to look after yourself first and foremost - don't tell yourself you don't deserve it.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:58 AM on November 20, 2016 [14 favorites]


Should I keep the money to myself, give a fraction of it back, or return all of it? And should I help him find a place to stay? What are my obligations here?

I am usually the one being primly aghast both at the idea that nobody has any obligations to their helpless aging parents unless they feel like it, and that adult children are entitled to financial support, but you are the clearest exception I have ever seen. If I understand you correctly, both your mother and your father have been continually abusive to you and/or your siblings throughout your lives, and your father is also historically a violent spousal abuser, and your father is also completely incapable of using money to help himself, AND this money of his that you have was put into a joint account by him, not by your manipulation, which makes it a gift in my estimation and too bad for him if he changed his mind after he'd done it.

For your own sake you should not speak to either of your parents ever again. you may want to out of pity and guilt; that doesn't mean you are obligated to. There is help for them if they want it and there are other family members to force it on them if they don't want it. You owe them nothing and you should do anything with the money that will help you. you, and not either of them.

also: saving yourself is not wrong. Much of what you need to be saved from is the fault of your parents, so by saving yourself you are mitigating some of the effects of their sins. thus by helping yourself, you are lessening your father's massive burden of deserved guilt, so it's good for him too, if you want to think of it that way.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:05 AM on November 20, 2016 [22 favorites]


My impression is that it is not your money. It's your fathers. I'm sorry because this sounds like a shit show and that money would certainly make life easier. I think you should take steps to enforce boundaries between yourself and your father.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:05 AM on November 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


What about this money has been put in writing? Start there.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:11 AM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Who has been putting money into this account? Who has access to this account? When he declared it was for you, was this in writing?

As I read this, it appears that your father put money into a savings account and thus it is his money.
If you have access to it, perhaps you could withdraw it and see if he comes after you for it legally.
This is probably obvious, but given all of your dad's issues, I wouldn't get into financial or legal agreements with him.
posted by k8t at 7:26 AM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you didn't put any money into this account, only your dad did? I'm not sure then why you feel it should be all yours and not all his.
posted by metasarah at 7:27 AM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's dangerous to form an opinion based on a narrative written by by one person online, but there one thing that's absolutely clear: you need to hire a therapist who can help you work through these problems, and you need to distance yourself financially and socially from your family with great vigor. You don't trust them, you don't like them. Don't entangle yourself with them. Do not engage these people. Do not help them. Do seek help from outside your bubble of friends.

Sharing a bank account with someone who you believe sexually abused your siblings and tried to murder multiple wives is not a reasonable thing to so. Multiple murder attempts committed by two different perpetrators in an immediate family is not a normal thing to experience. It's so completely abnormal that, from an outsider's perspective, there appear to be are only two options: you're bending over backwards to accommodate a true monster who belongs in prison and deserves none of your sympathy or concern, or your understanding of reality at the moment includes some things that aren't actually real and innocent people are being blamed for things they probably didn't do. Repressed memories are a sign that you really need to seek advice from a trained, uninvolved third party. Ideally one who doesn't advertise memory-recovery or hypnotism. Either way, escaping these relationships and building a meaningful life for yourself is far more important than any amount of money today.
posted by eotvos at 7:29 AM on November 20, 2016 [47 favorites]


Pintapicasso does not have the information needed to determine if this is legally his money. It's not available in your question. So that's not something we can address without a lot more information. Did you want a legal perspective or just an ethical one?

My opinion is that your ethical stance is to use the money for yourself. You don't even seem to be sure your father is homeless given your aunt's response. You are sure that he is abusive, financially irresponsible, unreliable in the extreme, and wildly unrealistic (penile enhancement?! Seriously?!).

The fact that he is unwilling to get help from other sources does not make him your responsibility -- not given the state he put you in. And if he, during a period of generosity and recognition of his past failings, gave you a life preserver, use it. He could have (and may have) put aside money for himself. That was his responsibility -- and if he blew through it, that's his problem.

On ethical grounds, even if he believed that the money was shared, he has taken some and now you need your share. Use it. Read eotvos's answer carefully. It is superb advice.

To answer the legal question, we need a lot more information. Where does he live? You? Where is the account? What names are on the account and how are they designated? When was it started, how much went in it, how much has he withdrawn, how much have you taken? Was anything put in writing or were there witnesses to his statements about its ownership? Who claimed the interest on their taxes? How old were you when the account was opened?

If you aren't willing to post that information publicly (you probably shouldn't) memail me directly.
posted by Capri at 7:34 AM on November 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


Talk to a lawyer with someone you trust to check and remind you what their advice is on the legality and likely effects of withdrawing the money from a joint or shared account.

My take as someone in a somewhat similar situation (memail me if you want to talk) is that if your severely abusive parent has a social or family network other than you, you can ethically leave to protect yourself. Your father does have people and state and charity resources to access. You're not his sole source of support in Siberia. He and the world prefer to go to you as the easiest source, but if you step away, your father will find alternatives. You can leave.

You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:42 AM on November 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


There is a LOT going on here but I just want to signal boost this:

For your own sake you should not speak to either of your parents ever again. you may want to out of pity and guilt; that doesn't mean you are obligated to. There is help for them if they want it and there are other family members to force it on them if they don't want it. You owe them nothing.
posted by Brittanie at 8:01 AM on November 20, 2016 [23 favorites]


Part of the answer to your question depends on how this joint account was set up and what was put down in writing. You say you have begged for money before but he wouldn't give it to you, so I'm curious how you were recently able to clean out the account against his will.

I think you should talk to a lawyer, because wanting the money and needing the money does not make it legally yours, no matter how hard of a position you're in right now or how much it could help you. If you take the money without any documentation that proves you have a claim to it, then your father could go to the police and file a report, saying you stole his money, and I don't think that is a good position to be in.

Beyond the potential legal issues, I think if your father was the only one putting money into that account while telling you informally that the money was meant for you someday, then it's still his money and it's not right for you to just take it all.
posted by colfax at 8:06 AM on November 20, 2016


I would just like to second this:

Sharing a bank account with someone who you believe sexually abused your siblings and tried to murder multiple wives is not a reasonable thing to so. Multiple murder attempts committed by two different perpetrators in an immediate family is not a normal thing to experience. It's so completely abnormal that, from an outsider's perspective, there appear to be are only two options: you're bending over backwards to accommodate a true monster who belongs in prison and deserves none of your sympathy or concern, or your understanding of reality at the moment includes some things that aren't actually real and innocent people are being blamed for things they probably didn't do. Repressed memories are a sign that you really need to seek advice from a trained, uninvolved third party. Ideally one who doesn't advertise memory-recovery or hypnotism. Either way, escaping these relationships and building a meaningful life for yourself is far more important than any amount of money today.

This seems like the right answer to me.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 8:16 AM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


To address a few questions:

A. I also put money into the account; not a lot by comparison to the money he deposited from the divorce settlement w/ my mom. That money specifically was meant for my use, though I do not have that any legally-viable written confirmation - only oral. We opened the account together as equal holders with explicit equal "rights" (not sure what the correct term is) to manipulate its contents, with no other written stipulations about same. The account was opened in my original state, in which he is not a resident. I was not privy to any of his misdeeds at that time.

B. I really, truly don't want to engage with him - not after learning about what he did. Again, I wasn't aware of that until I moved to my sister's house, but the guilt factor is massive and influencing my judgment.

C. Out of respect, I did not withdraw from it frequently - I felt that I should ask. But after reviewing the account statements, he also withdrew large sums without asking me. That is why I begged. It was a respect thing for me, valid or otherwise.
posted by Ashen at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2016


From a legal perspective, the answer to the question “who does it belong to?” is going to vary widely from state to state, so advice from a lawyer in your jurisdiction is essential. In some states, the ownership remains with the person who deposited the funds. In some states, putting the money into the account can be regarded as gift. In others, it would not be a gift until the original owner dies.
posted by yclipse at 8:39 AM on November 20, 2016


Do I save my father, or save myself? Can/should I do both?

Disregarding the entire body of your post, the answer to this question is always "save yourself first" --- it's often called the 'airplane oxygen question': if you're on an airplane and the oxygen masks drop, the airlines always specifically say to put on your own mask first, because it won't do anybody any good, neither you nor the people you want to help, if you yourself pass out from oxygen loss while you're trying to get someone else's mask on instead of putting on your own. Save yourself first: get your own life stable and solid before trying to help other people, including your father.

I'll go further: I think it's time you go no-contact with your father, and totally cut off all phone, snail-mail, email, text or any other contact with him. He calls, you calmly hang up the phone. He messages, you delete. He snail-mails, you trash it unread. Do not give your father your address, phone number or anything else. And perhaps include your aunt in that no-contact too, unless she can be trusted to not pass anything about you on to him.

Whether the money in the account was a gift or not is, as yclipse says, a question for lawyers. However, if you and your father were equal and joint account holders, and the account didn't require both signatures (not just one or the other) for a withdrawal, then I'm pretty sure you are legally in the clear. Either of you could deposit to that account, and either of you could withdraw. I'd keep it.

(And an 80-year-old who wants to waste money on a penile enlargement? Really? Sheesh. Keep the money yourself.)
posted by easily confused at 8:53 AM on November 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


I agree that the legalities could be complicated if he put most of the money in the account and you don't have anything in writing. It would definitely be worth consulting a lawyer where you live to find out the bottom line.

But, in the meantime, you are in serious need, he is and has been abusive, and it sounds like he would only waste the money anyway. If I were in your shoes I would go no contact with both your parents, then focus on getting my own life stabilized, using the money (carefully and judiciously) as needed to do that.

If your father and/or your other relatives get it together to come after you legally for the cash, at that point you can negotiate with them over whatever is left. But don't lose out on this chance to get yourself together. That will be better for everyone--including both you, your siblings, and your elderly parents-- in the long run.
posted by rpfields at 9:11 AM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you can't talk to a lawyer--talk to the bank. Go, sit down with an actual banker (not a teller or manager), and ask them to please explain how the ownership works for that specific account. I used to work in a bank, though not as a banker and not in your state, and we encountered this scenario multiple times, frequently with the outcome of "sorry, but by law if you're joint owners the other person can do whatever they want and we have no say in it. It is your responsibility to only join accounts with someone you trust."

If that is the case (you have full and same responsibilities as your father), at that time you should also remove your name from the account. Your father is reckless and getting desperate, he might make stupid financial decisions that could make you somehow responsible, if they involve that account. This has happened to me, with my mother, and this is not something you need right now.

As for moral responsibility- fuck yes, for the love of god take that money, start your life, and never speak to these people again. They have been mercilessly using you for your entire life, and fuck them. Completely, 100%, without any small shadow of a doubt, please ignore the answers that question your right to this money.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:07 AM on November 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


Obviously you need to save yourself first, but ask yourself whether the best/only way to achieve this is to use this money of dubious legal ownership, or to completely disentangle yourself from your parents financially and in all other ways. On a personal rather than legal reasoning, I would rather trust in the universe to provide what I needed over the short term to get back on my feet and in a more stable position, than trust in these tainted funds from such people.

I think the advice to consult a lawyer is sound, but even if a lawyer tells you that you're entitled to all or part of the money, make sure you ask the lawyer what can potentially happen if your father decides to dispute that in court. Thereupon hinges the question that only you can answer: is the financial security offered by this sum of money worth a potential drawn-out court battle with your father over it?
posted by drlith at 10:23 AM on November 20, 2016


Ethical yo think it's yours, legally it doesn't sound as clear. But from a common sense perspective I don't think it's the smartest thing to take money from someone who is known to TRY AND STAB PEOPLE WHO UPSET HIM TO DEATH. If you do take the money, vanish so he can never ever find you. In fact, just vanish anyway. This is a man you should never have contact with again.
posted by Jubey at 11:50 AM on November 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is this a joint bank account which can be overdrawn? If it is I would be worried that he might send it heavily into the red and then as a joint account holder the bank could come after you for the balance. You need to get your name removed from the joint mandate - which should be easy if the account is still in the black.
posted by Lanark at 3:08 PM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, eotvos:

It is more than my "believing" that my sisters were abused - they told me, had no reason nor incentive to lie, and I do not skip my daily dosage of depression medication. This wasn't some delusion or product of mental instability on my part. I've had more than one text conversation about what happened and the aftermath.

Also, I already have a therapist. That therapist has already referred me to someone in MD who has more experience with repressed memories and abuse. Because therapy is a given to me - both of my parents were diagnosed with schizophrenia, written proof for which does exist beyond my saying so - I didn't bother mentioning that I have a neutral third party who is involved in the management of my mental health. It is because of my work with the therapist that I was able to do things like - again - block the contact information of my mother's side of the family. My mother isn't well enough to even use a cell-phone anymore, and so I never bothered. I blocked my father's number as well.

It's dangerous to form an opinion based on a narrative written by by one person
online


Correct. I shouldn't have asked.
posted by Ashen at 6:21 PM on November 20, 2016


I asked this question because I had conflicted feelings about how to handle this. Said question is the result of my having compromised, porous boundaries with my parents, which I obviously have struggled with. I'm well-trained with regard to putting their needs over my own. That must and will change.

I'll check with an attorney regarding the account. If there are no complications, I will be keeping the money.

Thank you for your answers.
posted by Ashen at 6:22 PM on November 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think your final answer sounds good and I hope you can continue to trust the people in your life who care for you. It sounds like you are thinking things through and have a network of people around you. Boundaries can be tough but it sounds like you know what to do.

My opinion is that you have the moral right to the money. I can't speak to the legal side but it makes sense to me that you would ask this question. Sometimes we just need a sounding board.

I wish you the best and send you a hug!
posted by ramenopres at 7:16 PM on November 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


Save yourself.
posted by quince at 8:39 PM on November 20, 2016


It's a joint account. It's both their money and either of them can take all the money out at any time.
posted by xammerboy at 8:47 PM on November 20, 2016


And... save yourself. Get out of Dodge.
posted by xammerboy at 8:49 PM on November 20, 2016


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