No Excuse For Immorality

Ann and her brother each inherited $1.5 million. Her brother is bipolar,and Ann is his power of attorney. Does she have a leg to stand on to negotiate his debts even though he has some assets?

QUESTION: Ann in Cleveland lost both of her parents in 2007. She and her brother each inherited $1.5 million. Her brother has been diagnosed as bipolar, and he's gone through his money. Ann is his power of attorney. Does she have a leg to stand on to negotiate his debts even though he has some assets?

ANSWER: When the house is resold after the foreclosure, he'll be sued for the difference. It will take a couple of years. It won't be instantaneous. What would I do if I were his power of attorney? I would either ask him to participate in these decisions at some kind of level of maturity, or I don't want the responsibility. You have the option of doing nothing. You don't have a responsibility to do anything. Nothing is a possibility. The only thing I want to do are things that make sense. I don't want to do that if I can't get him on board with doing mature, smart moves. He has the money to pay the bill. He should pay the bill.

If I were in his shoes, I would be debt-free tomorrow, not counting the house. I'd have these toys up for sale if I were in his shoes—but I'm not bipolar. I don't mean that in a mean way, but that's the truth. There's no logic whatsoever in having your entire net worth tied up in toys, which is where he is today. If we pay off all this debt, he's basically got a tiny bit of cash left and a pile of toys. You've got to figure out how much of this you can talk to him about, but your good conscience has to be that you get to the end of your life going, "I didn't participate in his madness, and any moves I made were good moves for him." I'm not going to go sell his toys against his will, because you're not a guardian. You could legally, and that's what he should do, but I'm going to coach him into doing that. I would suggest—and get his nod of approval—to pay these debts off.

A guy who has the money to pay a bill that is created by his misbehavior should pay the bill. That's a moral thing. I'm not going to help him do something that's immoral. Part of his healing is to accept responsibility for his past and his future.