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Jewish World Review July 24, 2002 / 15 Menachem-Av, 5762

Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams
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Consumer Reports

Caught between car dealer and factory; we went bankrupt and now parents want money back, anyway | DEAR BRUCE: My wife purchased a new truck in 2001, and the dealership provided detailing, but they made deep scratches in the paint surface. After multiple returns, the dealer has abandoned us, and the factory blames the dealership. The dealership refuses to correct the damage, and it's too expensive to litigate. -- N.K., Bradenton, Fla.

DEAR N.K.: I suggest you contact a shop that specializes in the kind of repair you need. If it can be performed within the small claims threshold, bring action against the dealer and manufacturer in court. It will get their attention, as they must answer the summons. Usually, it is cheaper to negotiate than to pursue litigation.

DEAR BRUCE: My husband and I borrowed a lot of money from my parents for a business, but we went bankrupt. We named my parents in the bankruptcy. My father believes that we should still pay back the money. They say that if we don't, the amount will be deducted from our inheritance when they pass away. The amount we owe is staggering given our income. I feel we should pay back personal loans, but business debt should be let go. My siblings feel I should pay everything. My dad has an estate worth several million, and they live very comfortably. -- K.B., via e-mail

DEAR K.B.: I'm certain your parents didn't loan you the money as a business investment but rather because you are their child, and you ought to pay it back. Just because it was for a business should not relieve you of the responsibility. From a legal perspective, any money legally discharged during the bankruptcy is gone. If you wish to maintain a decent relationship with your parents, you should work things out. Your siblings' point of view is not unreasonable. I don't find it at all out of line for you to say we can't pay it back but deduct it from our portion of the estate.

DEAR BRUCE: On May 1, my 92-year-old mother passed away without a will. She only had some money and a small insurance policy to pay for her funeral and burial. My youngest sister lived near her and was given power of attorney when Mother went to the hospital. However, the funeral bill has not been paid from the cash or proceeds of the insurance, which I know my sister has in her possession. She told me she is making payments. What should my siblings and I expect in the way of accountability from her? Also, if she does not pay the bill, can the rest of us be forced to come up with the money? We understand that there was enough to cover the entire cost as well as a marker for her grave. -- F.S., via e-mail

DEAR F.S.: You haven't indicated who was the beneficiary on the insurance policy. If it was the estate, then your mom's estate would be obliged to pay all of her bills. Since there was no will, someone would have to be named administrator. If, on the other hand, the one sibling's name was listed as beneficiary, then that money belongs to her without restriction. If this is the case, there is no accountability. Whatever cash your mom left behind technically is part of her estate. It seems to me that the family ought to settle this like adults, not like a bunch of greedy teen-agers.

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Send your questions to JWR contributor Bruce Williams by clicking here. (Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.) Interested in buying or selling a house? Let Bruce Williams' "House Smart" be your guide. (Sales of the book help fund JWR).


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