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Annie’s Mailbox: Befriend fiance’s clingy mother

Dear Annie: After four years, I finally got engaged to “Thomas.” I love him with all my heart.

Thomas is 50 years old. Until last year, he lived with his widowed 68-year-old mother. She treats him like a husband. When we became engaged, Thomas seemed afraid to tell her, and when he did, she just stared at me. His friends have joked that I will never pry him from her grip. She treats me coldly and has told friends that Thomas was perfectly happy with her until I came along.

Thomas bought all the furniture and appliances in her home, does all the repair work and pays the mortgage, taxes and homeowners insurance. Mom has created ever more debt and complains constantly about not having enough money. Thomas and I rent a small house together and are struggling to make ends meet. I resent being saddled with her debts.

The deed to his mother’s house is in both of their names, with right of survivorship. Thomas has a brother and sister who are always looking for a handout. Could they get the house when she dies? After we marry, would I be responsible for this house debt? Am I making a mistake by marrying Thomas? – Waiting To Hear

Dear Waiting: If Thomas and his mother own the house jointly, with right of survivorship, his siblings should not be able to get their hands on it. As for being responsible for Mom’s debt, every state is different. We recommend you talk to a lawyer about protecting yourself in advance. After all these years, Thomas and his mother have a very tight bond, and she is going to resist your efforts to change it. How that plays out is up to Thomas and the way he handles her. We also urge you to make a friend out of this lonely woman, or she will make you miserable.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column.