Dear Annie: A while ago, my husband and I co-signed a car loan for my son. At the time, he was very financially stable. After about 2 1/2 years into the loan, we started getting late notices, as he was in financial difficulty. He ran into a situation with his job and was brought up on charges with the law. The car was eventually totaled, but I have found out there is still a balance of about $5,500. Now the car company is looking to us for payment. He apparently was never on the loan; only my husband and I are. He has ruined our credit, to say the least, which has caused a rift in the family.
About a year ago, he placed us in charge of our granddaughter’s 529 plan. There is about $27,000 left in the account. I recently got an email stating that my granddaughter is dropping out of college and that he wants to transfer the funds to his younger daughter. He wanted me to sign over the account to his ex-wife. I definitely do not want to do this. She is a spender, so I am afraid the children would never get the money for their education. I would like to stay in charge.
My dilemma is this. I have called the company the plan is with, and because I am the owner, I could withdraw the $5,500 owed to the car company. I would like to get this behind us. My husband and I are retired and just barely making ends meet, so there is no way we could ever pay back this loan on our own and have our credit restored. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. — Sad Parents
Dear Sad Parents: The problem is that your son keeps leaving messes behind that he expects you and your husband to clean up.
You and your husband are living on a fixed income, and you should not have to pay the $5,500 that your son owes to his car company. I would talk to an attorney to find out the best way to proceed and to make sure any additional funds (after the $5,500 has been paid to your son’s car company) go to your granddaughter’s education and not to your son’s ex-wife. I know it costs money to hire a lawyer, but you will save in the long run. You want to avoid Shakespeare’s warning that “the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.”
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org