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Should You Give Away Your Money to Your Adult Children?

Money is an important cause of abuse by children who want to usurp their parent’s property and sometimes the law is the only recourse for senior citizens, writes Vickram Sethi.

What do you do when your grown-up children ask you for money? Before you give them an answer you have to consider your own ability to provide this financial support. It is crucial to evaluate your own situation, take a close look at your income, expenses and savings to determine how much you can comfortably afford to give. Will it impact your retirement plans, your ability to meet your own financial requirements? It is essential to be honest to yourself about what you can realistically afford both now and in the future. When your grown-up children ask you for financial assistance it can be a difficult situation.

In India, we don’t have social security and we are dependent on our savings and other plans. Our society is such that the role of being a parent never ends. One is forever helping our children navigate their journey of life. Once you understand whether they’re looking for a loan that will be repaid or is it a one-time gift, make an impartial assessment of your children’s track record. How careful are they with money, why do they need the money, can they do without it. Dive deep into their request and find out how genuine the requirement is, or is it simply a ploy to get money out of you. Every situation can be different.

It’s okay to say NO, don’t have any guilt pangs, if giving financial aid would jeopardise your own finances. It’s crucial that you have a realistic understanding of your savings, retirement funds, monthly expenses, medical cost, travel and leisure requirements. At this point, it has to be understood that as long as you are not dependent on your kids, life will be smooth. However, if you were to loan them money and then expect that they would take care of you, that may be an unrealistic expectation and could lead to unpleasantness and heartburn.   

Children can also be a cause of anguish and pain. Nothing is more damaging than living with a manipulating emotional and abusive child, who strips away your self esteem and blames you for everything that goes wrong in his life. Property and money are an important cause of abuse by children who want to usurp their parent’s property, and sometimes the law is the only recourse for senior citizens.

Many seniors are unsure about what to do in such a situation. The embracement and the emotional trauma of proceeding against their own child plus the typical Indian question, “what will people say”. Often prevents parents from taking a drastic step such as a complaint to the police station. 

Here are five true stories 

  1. Rekha was a widow, her husband was a soldier who had died in the War. Rekha received compensation from the Government and with that money her brothers brought her a two room house with a courtyard inside and a veranda with some land and a gate. Her brother had ensured that she would be adequately provided for. Rekha was a simple illiterate woman. Who worked in people’s homes and made a living. Her brother had kept the property papers in a Bank locker on her name. Time went by her son grew up and was married. He also had a child and after a few years they decided to go to Haridwar for the kumbh. 

Image courtesy – National Geographic

The son and daughter in law abandoned Rekha in Haridwar and left without her. Fortunately for Rekha, a ladies group who were aware of such problems of old parents being abandoned by their children. Took charge of Rekha and brought her back to the little town of Bandha in Uttar Pradesh. Rekha knew that her son and daughter in law had abandoned her with determination and help from the community. She threw them out of the house (Circa 1972).

2. Indubhai ran a small photocopy shop where he also sold School stationery and supplies in the small town of Panvel off the Bombay Poona highway. Business was from school children who brought notes to be photocopied. There wasn’t much income, but he made a living out of selling school supplies. Unfortunately Indubhai’s brother-in-law fell ill and the husband and wife moved to Bombay to look after their brother-in-law. Schools were just reopening in June and this was a busy season. They left their shop in the care of their son who also had a similar shop in another locality. The son within fifteen days sold his father’s shop and also his own and disappeared. Only after a few days a neighbour who came to Bombay met Indubhai and informed him what had happened. Indubhai had purchased the shop in sons name and there was nothing that he could do (Circa 1980).

3. In another similar case Surajkumar had bought a four room flat on the outskirts of Delhi. Surajkumar had one son and two daughters. All the children were married and husband and wife decided to go to Vaishnavdevi for a pilgrimage with a group of friends. There was an accident and Surajkumar passed away. Once the rituals connected with death were over, his son moved the mother into the kitchen along with her belongings. She was made to sleep in the veranda, despite a protest by the sisters there was nothing anyone could do. The old lady lived the life of a maid. (Circa 1980).

Image courtesy – Business Outlook India

4. Sumati after her husband’s death went to spend a few days with her sister from Poona to Mahableshwar. In her absence her son entered the house, stole her jewelry, encashed her fixed deposits and even transferred money from her husband’s account into his. Sumati unfortunately had left two signed cheques in her almirah. There was just nothing that she could do. The son was an engineer in a multinational company. Sumati reported the matter to the police. The local papers carried the story but nothing ever came out of it. The son left Poona and moved to another city. The matter died its natural death. Sumati eventually sold her house and went to live in an old person’s home. (Circa 1987).

5. Vinod and his wife Sushila had fixed deposits in a bank, amounting to one and half crores. They were kept securely locked in their cupboard in the flat owned by them where they lived with their son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild. A few years ago, the couple decided to travel abroad and went on a two-week holiday. When they returned they found that their cupboard had been opened and that the fixed deposit certificates and some other important documents had been stolen. Vinod was the owner of a small manufacturing business and this money made up the couple’s life savings. On finding the certificates missing, he immediately asked his son Ramesh if he had any knowledge of the missing documents. Ramesh claimed that he did not know anything about it. The couple then went to the bank to make inquiries. The bank manager informed them that their son and daughter-in-law had produced the signed FD receipts and cashed them. The money was then credited to the personal accounts of Ramesh and Anita. The senior couple realized that their son had forged their signatures and stolen the money.

Since a crime had been committed, Vinod lodged a FIR at their local police station against Ramesh and Anita for an offence punishable u/s 380, 420, 465, 468, 471, 467 a/w 34 of the Indian Penal Code. Ramesh was arrested by the police and the bank accounts of Ramesh and Anita were frozen.

Ramesh sought forgiveness and requested his father to help him in getting bail and promised to return the entire amount encashed by him and Anita. Out of love for his child, the father obliged. After coming out of prison on bail, Ramesh requested his father to quash the FIR against him and promised to soon return all the money. Ramesh being their only child, the couple became emotional, and agreed. After quashing the FIR, the bank accounts of Ramesh and Anita were unfrozen. However, instead of returning the parents’ life savings, the son and daughter-in-law started abusing them and made their life miserable. They wanted the parents to leave the house and also demanded ownership of the family business, which was the means of livelihood of the parents. The couple was threatened with physical abuse and they began to fear for their lives.

Vinod and Sushila registered non-cognizable cases with the police several times against their son and daughter-in-law. They also wrote letters to the Commissioner of Police and other authorities asking for help against the continuing abuse by Ramesh and Anita. They also placed a notice in some newspapers, publicly disowning their son. To harass the parents even further, Ramesh and Anita registered false cases against them.

Finally, having reached the end of their tether, the parents consulted a lawyer and filed a complaint before the Forum of Senior Citizens under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, praying for maintenance and eviction of the son. After going through the case documents, the Officer passed an order of eviction against the son and daughter-in-law. (Note: Police have no role to play as far as this Act is concerned since it is a civil matter. But the senior citizens can make an application before the Sub-Divisional Officer seeking protection of the police for executing the order of the Tribunal.)

Their grown-up child’s love of money can wipe the smile off a loving parent’s face

This order was challenged by Ramesh and Anita but the provision to appeal under the Act is available only to senior citizens. They then filed a criminal writ petition in the High Court under Article 227 of the Constitution to challenge the order of the Tribunal and Appellate Tribunal. In the meanwhile, the eviction order was executed. The High Court suggested that the parties should come to a settlement and withdraw all the cases pending before all the courts against each other. The matter was referred to mediation but it failed. Later, the High Court passed an order in favor of the senior citizens, upholding the eviction order passed by the Officer against the son and his wife. (Circa 1992).

Image courtesy – wthr.com

Parents must learn to set firm boundaries with their children before the relationship becomes acrimonious and abusive. How does it get to a point, where your child who you loved so much and who you thought loved you is causing you so much pain and stealing from you, leaving you afraid, sad and depressed. No matter how hard you try, no matter what you do, it never seems enough. You are losing your peace of mind and sometimes question yourself whether you are the problem rather than your child. You would give anything to your child to wake up and treat you with love and kindness. Unfortunately, you have to stand up for yourself without the fear of what people will say. You don’t have to live like this. So what do you do when your grown up children ask you for money – damned if you give damned if you don’t. 

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