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Annie’s Mailbox: Money may not restore family ties

Dear Annie: Four years ago, my adult son was divorced and then lost his job. He tried selling his house, but couldn’t find a buyer. At the same time, my sister’s daughter, also recently divorced, needed a larger house and a better school system for her three teenage children.

My sister and I came up with what we thought was a win-win situation: My niece would take over my son’s house payments. We hoped she could obtain a mortgage within two years and purchase the house for the balance. My son would make no profit. The only condition was that she maintain the place. After two years, my son was still unemployed, and my niece was unable to qualify for a mortgage. So we let the arrangement continue.

We recently learned that my niece moved out without any notification or explanation. We were shocked when we saw that the house had been completely destroyed. My husband and I (both retired) invested $15,000.

I have sent emails and letters to my sister and niece, with absolutely no response. If they won’t help repay the money, at least they could offer an explanation and an apology.

Our next decision is whether to file a lawsuit. I have tried to restore the family relationship, but apparently, they are not interested. – Can’t Afford This Dilemma

Dear Dilemma: It’s disappointing that your niece cannot face up to her responsibility, and that her mother is willing to lose the relationship and be sued in order to allow her daughter to hide. We doubt that forgiving a $15,000 debt will restore your family ties. You will simply be out the money.

Please make one last attempt to resolve this before going to court. Can you see your sister in person? Ask to meet at a neutral place to discuss this before it gets completely out of hand. We hope she will agree so the two of you can express your feelings and find out whether anything can be done. An apology would go a long way.