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Lending Items to a Parent and Dealing with Siblings Later

There are times when children are the financial providers for parents in addition to being the caregivers.   It is not unheard of for a child to purchase or lend something to the parent with the understanding that when the parent no longer needs the item, it will return him or her. The tricky part can be getting it back in the end. 

 This may happen because others (not involved in the transaction) may be unaware of your loan. They believe you are taking something the parent purchased, or that you are being selfish by taking back something you have given.  Siblings may like the item you purchased. They may desire to have it or have its value contributed to the estate.  This situation often occurs when a loved one’s life comes to an abrupt end.  The older the parent, the more likely retrieval of your property will become a bit of a challenge with their shorter life expectancy.

Usually when we purchase an item to loan to a parent, there is no written agreement.  It is a conversation with Mom or Dad and a verbal agreement that the item will be returned to you when they no longer need it.  We all loan items to others, and the majority of the time it works out well. The items are returned no "worse-for-the-wear.”  But the truth is, when loaning items to parents, do not expect it to be as easy as loaning a ladder to a neighbor.  An elderly parent may forget you loaned the item, the parent may die, and it becomes your word vs. the word of your siblings. And as crazy as this sounds, your sibling may even want the item, unaware that it was on loan from you!


This may sound silly and too formal for a family situation, but take it from someone with many years in the industry. Do this, and it is likely you will not get burned. When loaning items to a parent, reduce the agreement to writing.

It could be as simple as notifying siblings via email/text when you purchase the item you are loaning. For example, "Hey, everyone! I just wanted to let you know I bought an air conditioning unit for Mom. I am loaning it to her as long as she needs it."  This way everyone knows about the item, and you have a document to prove it.  If your siblings are likely going to deny they received your communication (and you already know if I am referring to your family) then require that they respond to your email before buying the air conditioner.

You cannot expect your siblings to know everything you do for Mom or Dad just as you are not completely aware of what they do.  Keep everything out in the open because it exponentially increases your chances of achieving a positive outcome.
Another suggestion is to discuss it with your siblings before loaning the item and having your parent sign a short statement agreeing you loaned them the item. While this may seem a bit formal and uncomfortable, it solves the problem of getting it back later.
Avoid having your parent simply sign a statement.  The reason for a document is to have proof, but you have not eliminated the potential for heirs to challenge the competency of the parent when they signed it. Therefore, if you are loaning a large asset such as a home or vehicle you will need a written and witnessed document.  I recommend legal advice for such a transaction.

About this Post

Written By

Mary Haynor

RN / CEO - Emeritus

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