Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Updates: “Reluctant Business Owner” Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “Reluctant Business Owner,” who was stuck with an enormous tax debt after her parents transferred their business to her without explaining the financial responsibility they were sticking her with. One of our legal experts, Addie Pray, gave her some great advice. Keep reading to see what she’s decided to do.

I can’t thank you all enough for your thoughtful advice and encouraging words, I appreciate it more than you know. This has been an enormous weight on me especially since I’ve felt like I had to keep it to myself. Just getting it off my chest and hearing feedback has been therapeutic. My parents have a history of sweeping issues under the rug and in hindsight, there were signs something was seriously wrong. For example, I’d receive a call from a random bank about bounced checks and if my Mom were nearby, she would rip the phone from my hand and say the bank made a mistake. Unfortunately at the time I believed her.

After much effort and against my parents wishes, I was able to shut down the business with the help of a sympathetic accountant. Not being involved with the business made gathering information extremely difficult. My parents quickly established an LLC and carried on working though now they earn significantly less. My parents have shown no indication of intending the business to be my future livelihood or trust fund in any way. Though I’ve been dealing with this for a few years now, I don’t know if it’s fully sank in that my own parents knowingly sabotaged my life. I was going to be the first in my family to graduate from college. I plan to seek professional counseling to help me process things and decide how much of them I can allow in my life.

Moving forward, my parents have reluctantly agreed to work with a tax lawyer to remove the debt from my name at their cost. Thanks to the encouragement from you, Addie Pray, and the amazing commenters, I gathered the courage to tell them they either have to hire a lawyer or I will somehow. I’m feeling more optimistic at this point and REALLY looking forward to finishing my degree in the future.

Thank you again.

 
I’m so happy Addie Pray’s advice and the words of commenters, many of whom are lawyers themselves, gave you some perspective and brought you some comfort. And I’m so relieved your parents have agreed to hire a lawyer and start sorting out this mess.

Counseling is a wonderful idea. I hope you are able to get to a place of forgiveness. Parents, like anyone, are flawed human beings. Your parents flaws prevented them from nurturing you the way they should and protecting you from life’s ugliness as long as possible. I’m sorry for that, but I hope the upside is that you are independent and strong.

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at wendy@dearwendy.com with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

30 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Taylor January 27, 2012, 12:13 pm

    Good for you LW! You have taken enormous steps forward, and you sound like you have a good head on your shoulders. I think counseling is a great idea…and I look forward to a future update when you are back in school! All the best for your (very bright) future.

    Reply Link
  • caitie_didnt

    caitie_didnt January 27, 2012, 12:18 pm

    YAY!!! Best of luck in your future, LW. You will be stronger for what you have overcome.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    scattol January 27, 2012, 12:20 pm

    Am I the only one thinking that LW should still get a lawyer anyways to make sure that her parents will take the debt off her name like they agreed too?

    They screwed here once, I don’t see why they wouldn’t try to weasel their way out again. At least if LW agrees to compromises it will be with full knowledge and understanding of the situation.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      Guy Friday January 27, 2012, 12:38 pm

      Nope. I’d definitely advise that she still get a lawyer. Frankly, if she can try to put together a decent amount for an advance, I think there are a lot of lawyers who would LOVE to take a case like this where they basically earn their money for making the occasional phone call to check on the progress.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    Tax Geek January 27, 2012, 12:21 pm

    >Moving forward, my parents have reluctantly agreed to work with a tax lawyer to remove the debt from my name at their cost.

    I hope they really mean it. Until they actually do so, I would maintain vigilance.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    YouGoGirl January 27, 2012, 12:37 pm

    Congratulations to the LW on the progress she has made working through this extremely difficult situation. I agree with other readers who think she may still need to get her own lawyer.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    misslisa January 27, 2012, 12:39 pm

    LW, please obtain your own attorney!!! I can’t stress this enough. The legal counsel your parents hired (if in fact they actually did) is working in their bests interests, not yours.

    A close friend of mine needed to straighten out a similar family mess (not as bad as yours though). He hired his own attorney to represent his interests, even though my friend is an attorney himself! In the same way, you want a specialist in business and/or tax law on YOUR side, not some random dude your folks selected.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Calle January 27, 2012, 12:43 pm

    LW, if you are reading this please hire your own attorney! Call up your local law school (they may have clinics) or call every random lawyer and try to find someone who will take you pro bono. Have that person meet with your parent’s lawyer, if they actually hired one. This is one of the few times I disagree with Wendy, but it is okay if you don’t forgive your parents for this. Flawed human beings make a lot of mistakes. However, they don’t knowingly wreck their child’s future…Sociopaths do that.

    Reply Link
    • Kate B.

      Kate b. January 27, 2012, 2:12 pm

      I also agree that it’s okay not to forgive them. People talk a lot about it, but forgiveness is hard to come by and isn’t mandatory. Do what feels best for yourself. And please hire an attorney. In my state, the State Bar can help you find one.

      Reply Link
    • Jess

      Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com January 27, 2012, 3:19 pm

      I was trying not to play the sociopath card because it’s kinda my thing (see my topic under “Books” in the forum) but yeah, one or both parents could be.

      On the other hand, they may just be destructive narcissists that have VERY low empathy (better than none) and are unable to see how their actions affect others.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    bostonpupgal January 27, 2012, 12:45 pm

    I’m so glad that, at the very least, you are feeling better. And counseling is wonderful idea, as is setting boundaries you are comfortable with.

    I have to echo some of the concerns here, though, about your parents following through on their word with actually getting a lawyer. Not to mention, any lawyer they retain will be working for THEM. I strongly suggest you still obtain your own legal counsel, or at least meet with a few (most have a no-fee consulation) and check on whether they think it’s wise to only use one lawyer in this very messy situation. It is so, so important that you understand exactly what goes on with separating yourself from your parent’s business, or you might unwittingly sign yourself into more debt or responsibility.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    ForeverYoung January 27, 2012, 12:51 pm

    I’m just going to add one more vote to hire your own attorney as well. You might be able to get your parents to pay for it (not by asking them, but court ordered) and you need someone representing YOU in this whole mess. Your parents attorney is looking out for them.

    I know it sucks, but you can’t really trust your parents here. They screwed you once, it seems like they could easily do it again.

    It especially disturbs me that they seem to not understand the gravity of the situation. They “reluctantly” hired an attorney to sort it out? WHAT?

    Reply Link
  • Budj

    Budj January 27, 2012, 12:53 pm

    I was eager to hear the update from this LW. Glad to see you are taking control and good luck navigating this!

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Addie Pray January 27, 2012, 1:04 pm

    Thank you for the update, LW! I’m glad our advice to you was helpful. I want to echo the concern that others have raised above – make sure you take control of this ship. You should get your own attorney. The tax lawyer that your parents are working with … is working for your parents. His fiduciary duty lies toward them. I understand that your parents are remorseful, but I would not take their word. Even if your attorney simply reviews what your parents’ tax lawyer is doing, it would serve you well to have him on your side. And then you can ask him, moving forward, how you can “fix” the other problems that have resulted from the tax issue – your credit, your inability to get student loans, etc.

    Reply Link
  • Jess

    Jess of CityGirlsWorld.com January 27, 2012, 1:05 pm

    Thank you for writing back LW. Your letter has been on my mind ever since you wrote…

    I am glad the advice helped. Please persist and righting this wrong that was done to you. Don’t be guilted into shouldering this mess.

    I wish you’d said a little more about your history with your parents. It’s hard to know if they were misguided or malicious. Either way, it seems safe to say they have navigated an incredibly narcissistic course without regard for the well-being of their child. Hopefully they can now make that right. But I hope you will protect yourself by surrounding yourself with the people in your life who love you with unwavering empathy –grandparents, relatives, cousins, best friends, whoever it may be –there are people who have your best interests at heart.

    My thoughts remain with you.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      j lou January 27, 2012, 9:34 pm

      I ask myself the same questions all the time.. Are my parents just severely troubled or misguided? Are they malicious? Or, are they sociopaths? Maybe all of the above, I don’t know the answer.

      As far as my family history goes, major issues with my Mom started when I was young. When I was 16 and got my first job, my Mom opened a joint checking account with me. I’ve always been very diligent with saving and sticking to a budget so after awhile I had a few thousand saved, until one day I went to buy something and my card was declined. My Mom had completely emptied out my account. I was furious but even then she made me feel like I was the one being unreasonable. She said she’d ‘fix it’ but just never got around to it. That started a nice long run of being used by my parents. It’s perfectly clear now but when you’re young and dependent on your parents, without any close relatives, you don’t really have a choice, or a voice to ask questions and stick up for yourself.

      I learned about the tax mess when I turned 21 and had to lease my first apartment because my Dad kicked me out because I expressed disapproval of his sudden and very public affair. Just one month after moving out on my own, ALL of my accounts were cleared out and my wages were garnished because of business debts that had gone to collections. I was left with $5.00 on my savings. It truly feels like I’m telling someone else’s story sometimes.

      Reply Link
      • avatar

        Temperance January 28, 2012, 11:40 am

        Yikes – were you able to file suit against your parents for what they did? 🙁

        Link
      • avatar

        Sistine January 30, 2012, 2:29 pm

        That is so horrible. I’m so sorry that your parents treated you this way. It’s obvious that neither one of them can be trusted or has any concern for your well-being. Counseling is a good idea. And just know it’s okay not to forgive them. Forgiveness is earned. If your parents are truly remorseful, are working to make things right and want a relationship with you then you can figure out when you’ll be able to forgive them and what part you want them to play in your life. If they honestly haven’t changed, it’s very harsh to face but the reality is that they never will. You have to be strong and protect yourself.

        Link
      • avatar

        j lou February 4, 2012, 12:38 pm

        Thank you for your advice, I wanted so badly for my parents to do the right thing but now it’s clear that they just aren’t capable of it. My boyfriend’s parents have generously offered to back me financially for a tax attorney. We are setting up a meeting for next week! Wish me luck.

        Link
  • avatar

    CottonTheCuteDog January 27, 2012, 1:14 pm

    Wait. All of this happened in 10 days?! So confusing!!!!!

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      eb January 27, 2012, 9:04 pm

      More than 10 days, most letters aren’t posted immediately so there is a certain amount of ‘lag time’

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    OneSpiritEternal January 27, 2012, 1:15 pm

    I don’t know about where you live, LW, but where I live, we can contact the State Bar Association, and they give a referral to a local attorney specializing in whatever it is you need. The initial consultation with this referral is for an hour, and is only $35. It might be another avenue you can look into for a qualified legal representative to, as it has been stated her many times, look out for YOUR best interests. Please do this. It’s not being punitive to your parents, it’s all about protecting yourself, which is something your parents not only failed to do, but instigated in the first place! The very best of luck to you and your family. You remain in my thoughts.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    LeahW. January 27, 2012, 1:37 pm

    LW, I’m so happy that you’ve been able to get good legal advice through this website and that you’re seeking professional counseling to deal with the emotional aftermath of your parents’ actions. One thing that I’d point out as you start to work through this is that you can never underestimate the power of denial. It’s true that your parents should have thought through their actions towards you and are completely responsible for what happened, but it’s possible that they were totally in denial about what it was that they were doing and how it would end. Think about Bernie Madoff and anyone that runs a Ponzi/Pyramid scheme. Mathematically speaking, it’s only a matter of time before Ponzi schemes collapse in on themselves and are discovered because eventually the scheme will get so large that you won’t be able to find enough new investors to pay off the old ones. But Bernie started one and kept it going for years as if the charade could continue forever!

    It’s difficult to describe how completely reprehensible your parents’ actions were, but it would take a true psychopath to knowingly ruin your life in this way. Much more likely is that they were so in denial that, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, they were able to convince themselves that they could still fix things, that everything would work out, that this wasn’t their fault. They should have known what they were doing and have no one to blame but themselves for orchestrating such a disaster, but people are able to convince themselves that even truly horrible things are okay. I can’t help but think that there’s a difference between being so thoroughly in denial about your own recklessness and selfishness versus knowingly and purposefully doing something horrible to your own child. Being able to make that distinction (with the help of your therapist) might one day help you move on from this situation. I sincerely wish you luck!

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    HmC January 27, 2012, 2:11 pm

    It’s already been said but it’s an extremely important point so I’m going to reiterate- if your parents hired an attorney then that attorney’s duty and loyalty is to their interests, not yours. And since your interests are diametrically opposed to theirs here, you are truly not protected unless you get your own attorney. And since your parents likely engaged in multiple instances of fraud in their dealings with you, there’s a good argument for getting a court to order that your parents pay you attorney’s fees and even punitive damages. Talk to any potential attorney about these issues!

    Good luck LW.

    Reply Link
    • avatar

      mf January 27, 2012, 2:30 pm

      THIS! You need your own attorney looking out for YOUR interests, particularly since you can’t trust your parents look out for you.

      Reply Link
  • avatar

    katiebird January 27, 2012, 2:52 pm

    GET YOUR OWN LAWYER!!!!! please please please!!! you really really really need your own lawyer! your parents lawyer will be working towards THEIR best interests! not yours!!!

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    oldie January 27, 2012, 3:38 pm

    Congratulations, you are one gutsy student. Still, the other commenters are correct that you need your own lawyer. If your mother would go so far as ripping the phone from your hands to keep you from learning how much they had screwed you over, while actively continuing to do so, the act of hiring their own lawyer may be just a continuation of their hiding the truth from you and another way of buying more time. It doesn’t sound like they’ve earned the right to be trusted on this one.

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    demoiselle January 28, 2012, 8:32 am

    You still WILL and CAN be the first person in your family to graduate from college!! Don’t give up, you’ve been derailed, but you can still get your degree!

    Reply Link
  • avatar

    Temperance January 28, 2012, 11:45 am

    LW, I hope you are reading these comments! I disagree with Wendy – you don’t owe your parents forgiveness. They certainly don’t deserve it.

    Hire yourself a lawyer! You may be able to get pro bono services, or cheap services. Your parents have tricked you and lied to you for years, and their attorney will represent THEIR interests, not yours. That basically means that you could very well be screwed over again by these people.

    You also don’t have to give up on college! If you can find a job at a university, you can get free or very reduced tuition. If not, community college classes are usually pretty cheap, depending on where you are. It may take you longer, but your parents don’t get to control your whole life. You will get there. <3

    Reply Link
    • Dear Wendy

      Wendy January 28, 2012, 12:15 pm

      You can’t disagree with me when I never said anything (the original letter was answered by a guest columnist)! I swear, I think some people just LOOK for ways to disagree with me.

      Reply Link

Leave a Comment