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Time for a family finance discussion

Dear Annie: My father passed away a year ago. My brother, who lived closest, was entrusted to oversee my mother’s care. My siblings and I were all aware of the sacrifices Dad made to ensure my mother would be provided for. Their house is not paid off, but there is enough coming in monthly to cover her expenses.

A couple of days after Mom received the insurance settlement, my brother borrowed a third of it. He gave her a promissory note and is paying 2 percent interest. A year later, he borrowed half of what was left. My mother just informed me of this when I called on what would have been my dad’s birthday. My brother told her to keep it a secret, so she doesn’t want me to let on. I advised her to move the rest of the money into an account to which my brother does not have access.

Right now, I don’t think very highly of my brother and wonder if this is a form of elder abuse. He is having financial difficulties, but so am I, and Mom doesn’t have enough money to fix anyone’s problems. His pay has been downsized, but he has a pretty lavish lifestyle and indulges his kids and wife. Right now, my mother is planning to change her will, since my brother is the executor. What is your advice? – Disappointed

Dear Disappointed: If your brother took this money from your mother without her knowledge or consent, or if Mom was incapable of understanding the repercussions of what she was doing, it would indeed be elder abuse. But it sounds as if your brother is attempting to pay her back, albeit slowly. Before allowing this to escalate into a permanent rift, you should have a family discussion with all your siblings and your mother. Don’t make accusations. Simply discuss how best to see that Mom’s money is used for her benefit. You might want to bring in a financial counselor or attorney to act as mediator.