Q: My daughter, her husband and two children, moved into my large house at a time when I needed their help due to an illness. This was at their suggestion.

My son-in-law remodeled my kitchen to suit their taste (my kitchen was 20 years old and did need some upgrading), and converted a large storage room in the basement into a large bedroom for their daughter. They converted my late wife’s second floor sewing room into a bedroom for themselves.

My son-in-law suggested making a few other changes, such as adding French doors to our “Florida” room, which I rejected. My share of the kitchen remodeling costs were $2,700.

There are now four cars in the family, including mine, my daughter’s, my granddaughter’s and my son-in-law’s truck. He wants to build an attached garage on the side of the existing garage for his truck. How can he build an attached garage onto a house that doesn’t belong to him?

In all of this, I have the feeling that they are setting themselves up to eventually take over my property when I die. There are three other heirs they would have to buy out. I consider their behavior somehow unethical and pushy. By the way, this is the same daughter who once wanted her name on the deed, but I followed your advice and didn’t put it on. What should I do?

A: You need to develop a backbone.

It’s unfortunate that your daughter and son-in-law are so clearly trying to muscle you out of your house while you’re alive. But since you do own the property, you hold the strings.

Tell your pushy son-in-law that you don’t plan on making any other changes to the property while you’re alive. Tell him that you expect them to start contributing rent to the tune of X (you’ll have to come up with a reasonable percentage of the mortgage, taxes, insurance and upkeep) if they’re going to continue to live there, plus they need to help around the house, if they aren’t already.

Remind your daughter that you have other heirs and that ultimately, the property will be left equally to all. If you’d like to cement this, I suggest you hire an estate attorney to perhaps put the property into a trust and look over your will, powers of attorney and other estate matters. If you haven’t yet considered who would get your power of attorney in case you are incapacitated, please consider a different child than the daughter who lives with you, or a trusted attorney.

You clearly need to set some boundaries here, because it sounds as though your daughter and her husband are making you feel somewhat unwelcome in your own house. And that’s not how you should spend your retirement.

Published: Jun 22, 2007