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    Former MSE Debs
    Real-life MMD: Should I confront my indebted sister?
    • #1
    • 7th Jan 13, 11:11 AM
    Real-life MMD: Should I confront my indebted sister? 7th Jan 13 at 11:11 AM
    Money Moral Dilemma: Should I confront my indebted sister?

    I recently read a letter from HMRC to my sister and discovered she's in a lot of debt. I've raised suspicions before, and she denied being in financial straits, though I remained worried. I know it's not really my business, but she lives with my widowed and retired mum, so is involving her and taking advantage of her generosity. Should I confront her about her debt, or wait until she faces up to it?

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    Last edited by Former MSE Debs; 08-01-2013 at 4:22 PM.
Page 1
    • surveyqueenuk
    • By surveyqueenuk 8th Jan 13, 10:58 PM
    • 579 Posts
    • 2,099 Thanks
    • #2
    • 8th Jan 13, 10:58 PM
    • #2
    • 8th Jan 13, 10:58 PM
    Firstly, what on earth were you doing reading your sister's letters? Sis may have already dealt/be dealing with this, so do proceed with caution as you risk being labelled a snoop. Certainly don't "confront" her about this!

    How exactly is your mother involved and how is your sister taking advantage of her?
  • mr-tom
    • #3
    • 8th Jan 13, 11:13 PM
    • #3
    • 8th Jan 13, 11:13 PM
    Setting aside the questions the previous respondent raises, which I do understand, I'll answer a slightly different question: "if somebody you love is doing something that is bad for them (and maybe those around them), do you confront them?"

    I think the answer to that depends on the person. Some people when confronted would face up to things and change their ways. Others might simply be unaffected over the long term, and in other cases, it could actually be counterproductive.

    So back to your question, only you know the sort of person your sister is. If a confrontation is likely to produce results then great. (Although then note the previous poster's comments) However if a confrontation would make things worse, then leave well alone and be prepared to offer (tough) love and support when it all comes crashing down.
    • pennypinchUK
    • By pennypinchUK 9th Jan 13, 6:35 AM
    • 382 Posts
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    • #4
    • 9th Jan 13, 6:35 AM
    • #4
    • 9th Jan 13, 6:35 AM
    She's your sister, right. And it sounds like you care about her, so your honour bound to do something. Her mentality is just the same as an addict (whether that's drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, etc.). An addict will typically only face their addiction when they see how it's adversely affecting them or their loved ones.

    The right thing to do is to approach your sister and tell her in plain and clear language that you know she is heavily in debt, and you want to help her. Tell her your concerns about how it's affecting her and your mum. Chances are, she won't like it and may get angry at you for mentioning it. But tell her you'll be watching out for her and are ready to support and help immediately she feels ready to confront the issues. Tell her the help you're willing to offer (e.g., arranging a visit to a debt counsellor, being by her side as a trusted and loyal, non-judgemental friend, maybe financial support if you can afford it and if you're clear she's started to adjust her finances, etc.)

    You may have rocky times ahead, but it'll be worse for her, you and your mother in the long run if you pretend nothing is wrong and dodge your responsibilities as a family member.
    • Fujiko
    • By Fujiko 9th Jan 13, 9:52 AM
    • 149 Posts
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    • #5
    • 9th Jan 13, 9:52 AM
    • #5
    • 9th Jan 13, 9:52 AM
    My first reaction - mind your own business and don't read other people's letters! Your sister may well owe money to the bank but so do lots of people and this is something they can live with. If that is the way she chooses to manage her finances that is her choice. I'm not clear in what way your sister is taking advantage of your mother or why she is still living at home. For example, how old is she and does she have a job? More information needed I think.
  • florere
    • #6
    • 9th Jan 13, 10:21 AM
    • #6
    • 9th Jan 13, 10:21 AM
    You should not have read your sister's letter, is your sister really taking advantage of your mother, does your mother want her to live with her, is your sister using your mother's money to fund her lifestyle? If not, then it is none of your business
    Last edited by florere; 09-01-2013 at 11:26 AM. Reason: typo
    • Cimscate
    • By Cimscate 9th Jan 13, 10:32 AM
    • 128 Posts
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    • #7
    • 9th Jan 13, 10:32 AM
    Sisters should be there when you need them.....
    • #7
    • 9th Jan 13, 10:32 AM
    I have 4 sisters and I would be outraged if any of them read my mail or interfered in my financial affiars. I know that if I want help I can ask for it. However, if you know for sure that your mother is being taken advantage of then that probably does give you the right to get involved.
    • SandraDJ
    • By SandraDJ 9th Jan 13, 11:42 AM
    • 40 Posts
    • 60 Thanks
    • #8
    • 9th Jan 13, 11:42 AM
    • #8
    • 9th Jan 13, 11:42 AM
    I don't think that you should have read your sister's letter.

    I also think that it would be wrong to 'confront' her. Is there a way that you can discuss her problems without being confrontational? Are you sure that she is taking advantage of your mother?
    • hannerrbabes
    • By hannerrbabes 9th Jan 13, 12:49 PM
    • 153 Posts
    • 927 Thanks
    • #9
    • 9th Jan 13, 12:49 PM
    • #9
    • 9th Jan 13, 12:49 PM
    You shouldn't be reading your sister's mail, whether or not it came to your house. That's illegal.
    You don't know if she's dealing with it or not as she obviously doesn't wish to talk about it.
    If you confront her she's going to get mad because you've been in her personal business. But I think its best to do so. If anything, you can help her by directing her to this website! There are plenty of tips to get rid of your debt quickly, here!
    • onesixfive
    • By onesixfive 9th Jan 13, 2:30 PM
    • 325 Posts
    • 224 Thanks
    Have you considered that your mum may already know about this debt?
    Maybe mum knows all about it & her opening up her home for your sister to live with her is her way of helping ?
    Maybe they are sorting this matter already without involving you ?
    You shouldnt have read mail that didnt concern you - it may already be in hand.
    If its getting serious and likely to affect any other residents of the address, (ie: bailiffs knocking) dont you think your mum will have noticed ?
    Last edited by onesixfive; 09-01-2013 at 2:35 PM.
  • frugalisticchic
    Most definately. Having just lost someone to suicide due to debt, I certainly wish I'd known the extent of things and that things had been said/asked before it was too late though tact is essential in how you "confront" someone.
  • Hens Teeth
    It may be that your sister left out her letter on purpose, so that you would find it and "accidentally" read it, so it may be a cry for help. I think that you should raise it with your sister, but not "confront" her. Perhaps, as an opening, say something like 'I'm about to work out my income and outgoings to put it all into an Excel spreadsheet. Do you want to do it with me?' Whatever, be prepared to be at the receiving end of hostility as no-one likes to face up to their weaknesses.
    • DigForVictory
    • By DigForVictory 9th Jan 13, 2:36 PM
    • 8,297 Posts
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    Blimey. Were I to open an HMRC letter to a sister, without Power of Attorney I'd be breaking the law. Were I to look into a personal opened envelope, it wouldn't be the law I'd worry about that got broken. (Sibling rivalry, territoriality etc is potent stuff, as you're finding.)

    Please, Be Careful. It is possible you have made a mistake/erroneous assumption.

    If you are concerned but want to maintain healthy relations, have a gentle word with mum about her (mum's) finances - perhaps refer to the MSE site as very helpful, and then Step Right Back.

    I wouldn't dare presume my widowed and retired mum was unaware of her household finances, or butt in on ground she & sis have possibly already covered. Especially if I suspect it's been raked over, harrowed, watered with tears & generally been the subject of some mental anguish.

    I know my mother wants relative peace between her offspring, so "confront"? I think not. If sis has involved mum, then they've agreed something between them. I am not included. Their business.

    I know it may feel hair-raising, but a bit of trust to each woman may be in order.

    As after all, if things do go badly wrong time future, you can always come back here to MSE. Whereas if you annoy both stratospherically, you may only have us to come back to. And 'in the right' can still be cold & lonely.
    • druss_the_axeman
    • By druss_the_axeman 9th Jan 13, 2:56 PM
    • 12 Posts
    • 4 Thanks
    YES: confront her
    First off there's nothing illegal about reading a letter, opening it is different but reading it is fine.

    Secondly if she's living with your mother and it's HMRC debt the household is affected check out the "What could happen if you don't pay HMRC" on the HM Revenues & Customs webpage (sorry I can't post the link) to see what the HMRC could do if your sister ignores the debt. Debt collection agencies are not known for their softly softly approaches.

    Finally if she's dealing with it then she'll tell you that, if not then imo it's still better to confront because the HMRC are not known for their patience either. Oh and be ready for the proverbial to hit the fan, your sister might be angry at first but if she's got an ounce of sense she'll realise you've only got her and your mothers best interests at heart eventually.
    • Mojisola
    • By Mojisola 9th Jan 13, 3:04 PM
    • 30,034 Posts
    • 77,152 Thanks
    First off there's nothing illegal about reading a letter, opening it is different but reading it is fine.
    Originally posted by druss_the_axeman
    There's nothing illegal about opening or reading someone else's letters unless you do it with the intention of causing them harm.

    However the sister came to read the letter, confronting is a bad idea. Finding some diplomatic way of asking if she needs any help would be the way.

    If the sister's debts are starting to affect their mother, it may be best to tackle it from that standpoint.
    • happyinflorida
    • By happyinflorida 9th Jan 13, 3:12 PM
    • 724 Posts
    • 610 Thanks
    If she's not dealt with the problem with HMRC then there is a problem and if she's already raised your suspicions about her being in debt then I would speak to her and tell her to get some real help.

    It may help to say you don't want to know in-depth information about her situation but as she's your sister you are worried about her and that's great of you - same as you would do or all of us should do for a friend in the same situation.

    The fact you read the letter - IMO - is unimportant. The letter is an indication of a problem and your sister obviously DOES need help especially if she's in denial that there is a problem. A lot of people do this.

    Recommend her to look up a free help service about being in debt - find one for her on here - there are one's she can look at online and not have to go anywhere if she needs an appointment, they can ring her and it's all free. Martin recommends these sites, there's one in particular that used to be called CCCS but has changed it's name - look it up on here and you'll find it.

    Well done for trying to help her and if she's living with your mum, that is even more reason for her to get this sorted as she shouldn't be taking advantage of your mum.

    Hope it all works out ok - go in gently, with slippers on not wellington boots, if you get my meaning!
    • Arthog
    • By Arthog 9th Jan 13, 4:26 PM
    • 155 Posts
    • 193 Thanks
    A worrying aspect of this is that if Mum is bailing out your sister, they could both end up in dire straits.
    • Bristow
    • By Bristow 9th Jan 13, 4:52 PM
    • 21 Posts
    • 31 Thanks
    Just to say something similar happened to me. I was Miss Nice, and lost out mega bucks. Your sister may be being kind to your Mum, but so are you. The fact that you have seen her mail is immaterial. She is in debt and should be doing something about it herself, not just taking dosh from your Mum. So speak to your sister (you don't have to say you have seen her mail). She has problems and needs help. Also speak to your Mum - explain your sister's problem and how you want to help her. It would be SO much better if your sister started to understand her financial problems and got a grip. Otherwise she is never going to be out of debt and you will always resent her. Good luck.
    • iclayt
    • By iclayt 9th Jan 13, 4:57 PM
    • 420 Posts
    • 823 Thanks
    Lots of talk about the morals/legalities of opening/reading the letter, but that's totally irrelvant, as the bigger picture here is the letter was from HMRC and is about 'a lot' of debt. This is an unknown figure of course, but it's enough to make you worry, so I'm assuming it's substantial.

    If I was in this position, I would absolutely say something. Knowing my sister, she would rant and rave about me poking my nose in, but as long as I knew I had offered her support and maybe given her information on debt crisis helplines etc, my conscience would be clearer than leaving her to deal with it herself just because I was worried about her reaction to me seeing the letter. I would be even more convinced to talk to her about it if she could be any way implicating our mum in the debt or worry over it.

    I would be prepared, have information ready to hand over to her, apologise once for reading the letter but assure her I felt a duty to offer my support. It would be entirely up to her whether she accepted it or not.
  • darren_lane
    Protect your Mum!
    I would make yourself 'power of attorney' or at least make yourself responsible for your Mum's financial matters on the sly.
    Once she is 'safe', speak to your sister.
    Don't 'confront' her as its not your business.
    It is your business to look after your mother.
    Too many people shirk their responsibility towards their parents, well done for trying to look after your Mum.
    By the sound of it, you're prepared to look after (to some degree) your sister which is admirable but you can only help those that want to be helped.
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