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Kayak Hijacked

This situation came to light around 2010. My family lived in the same house for my entire life. I was the youngest of 4 sisters and continued to live with my parents while I went to college. Around 2005 they decided to sell the house and purchase a condo in a new development. My next oldest sister, T, was the only one besides me not owning her own home, so my parents decided to sell the house (3 bedroom, 2 bath) to her for an amazing price. T also got the entire shed full of tools, a sauna, and most of the furnishings including 2-bedrooms sets, couches, kitchen appliances and dining room table. T was often down on her luck, on one bad situation of her own making or another, as well as one bad relationship after another. My parents saw this as the chance for her to have a stable life and a good home for her teenaged daughter. At the time T was engaged and the house was put into her fiance’s name at her request, since T was on section 8 housing as her fiance’s “tenant” and owning a home would put an end to her benefits. (I should mention she is always into one scheme or another, something which usually ends-up hurting the family financially or emotionally to the point that only my mom will still speak with her.) She presents herself as the most loving and caring person to friends who have never seen the darker side and cultivates deep relationships with non-family members who think she is the most amazing person and so she gets the ego boosts she lives for. This is the same sister who told me once that the reason our mom was sick and needed to take medication was because she had me. The same sister who threw me over the fence for the neighbor’s guard dog. The same sister who, when the family turns on her for her indiscretions makes a suicide attempt so that we’ll all feel sorry for her and back-off (her attempts are always such that she makes sure she is caught and thus is never in real danger of actually dying). Believe me, this is all relevant. She was actually getting a little better once she settled into the house. We were actually closer than we’d been before.

During the move, we found that we would not have enough room at the condo for my great-grandfather’s upright piano; dad’s grandfather’s piano on his dad’s side. It was a beautiful piece from a very well known company. Also, we would not have room in the carport for my 18-foot wooden sea kayak. These items were worth between $8,000-$10,000 and $2,000-$3,000 respectively. My sister did not have much of her own and said we were welcome to continue to store the items in the basement of the house for as long as we wanted. Everything seemed fine. I moved out-of-state in 2007 and again, did not have room in the moving van or my apartment for the kayak. T even visited me regularly. Come 2010 I finally moved into a house. I finally had a place for my kayak and could not wait to bring it back with me when I went back home to visit. You can see where this is going, right?

I called my dad regarding the upcoming trip and asked if he could help me strap the kayak to the car when I returned. He seemed REALLY uncomfortable and dropped this bombshell on me. In 2006 a friend of his was looking for some sheet music. Dad offered to give him his old music, which was stored in the seat of the piano bench. He asked T when would be a good time for him to go get the music. That’s when she told him that she hadn’t actually purchased that hot tub she had, she’d traded OUR GREAT-GRANDFATHER’S PIANO for it! The icing on the cake was when dad gave voice to his suspicion about what else she’d let us “store” and asked point-blank, “Do you at least still have your sister’s kayak?”  No, she had traded MY KAYAK for the installation and electrical work for the hot tub! And for 4 years had visited me, phoned me, etc. all the while being a liar and a thief. She never could have done it without her fiance, now husband, knowing, so he was just as guilty! I was distraught for myself and dad both and asked him why hadn’t he said anything to me. He told me that he didn’t know how to break it to me and, knowing the way that T and her friends treat their possessions, he didn’t want me to see my kayak in a ruined state. He said he should have been more suspicious when T mentioned shortly after the move that the piano had so much brass inside and that she was curious how much it was worth; why she was looking inside the body of the piano I have no clue. She apparently also mentioned that a friend of hers was an avid kayaker and was admiring mine.

He DID confront her when he found out and asked her how she could have done such a thing, but she was having none of it and saw it only as a personal attack against her. Dad even offered to BUY the items back, but she threatened that, if he “embarrassed” her like that, that she would take an ax to both items and leave the pieces in the condo driveway. He pretty much cut off all ties with T except when it came to the welfare of her daughter who ended up living with them at the condo anyway because T had slipped right back into her old habits and was unbearable to live with, as well as continuing to smoke in the house and keeping a dozen cats, even though her daughter has asthma and is allergic to cats! Speaking of being embarrassed, she actually confronted my dad over this whole situation several months later when our grandfather, dad’s father, passed…AT HIS FUNERAL!

I haven’t spoken to T since my dad broke this news to me. 2 years. I haven’t written or sent anything to her or Mr. T for the holidays and blocked her from Facebook. She sent me a sappy card this past Christmas, but that went in the trash. I am still so angry that dad didn’t go to the police and have the items reported stolen, but knowing T she would have claimed that they had been “abandoned” since it had been so long or some other excuse, and most certainly would have found a way to have them destroyed before they could ever be returned to us. How could someone who claims to love you lie to your face for 4 years and turn on you like a rabid badger? I am still considering legal action against her, but am running out of time. (I believe the statute would begin from the time I learned about the theft, not from the time the theft actually occurred). But I also am afraid of how CRAZY she is, and how horrible she could make my life even from several states away if I get on her bad side. I would never see a dime of any money I might be awarded anyway. I thought of asking for something of equal value; her husband is a gunsmith and 2 high quality guns would equal the value of my kayak. On the other hand, I feel like I just want her out of my life for good. 0621-12

T would not have wanted me as a parent.  I would have heard the threat to damage the piano and kayak via ax as a lot of bluster and called her bluff.   And if she had had the audacity and criminal mind to actually do it, there are far more serous problems in the family than merely entitlement.

I see this often where one child has deficiencies in character for whatever reason and the parents, out of a sense of misplaced pity, facilitate the behavior.  It’s as if the child is a skilled con artist who extracts all kinds of financial and emotional benefits from the parents by means of manipulation and often at the expense of the other siblings.  Getting the house, shed tools, and many other extras at a very competitive price was not enough for the OP’s sister.  Rather than gratitude, she has an entitled expectation that her father’s piano and sister’s kayak were hers as well so that she can acquire a hot tub basically at no cost to herself but at considerable cost to the OP and her dad.   (There will be some commentators who will note that leaving possessions in another’s house does present some legal issues regarding adverse possession.  However, both the piano and kayak were gone from the house quickly, within a year of T taking ownership of the house and agreeing to keep these items in storage.  And familial courtesy should surely apply here by requesting the OP and her father to please remove these items from the basement.)

You learned a very expensive lesson, OP, to never leave anything of value with your sister, that she will assume she is entitled to own anything of yours that happens to not be nailed down,and that she will exploit her parents.  I’d drop the idea of getting any compensation and chalk it up to being the one time you “bailed” out your sister and never do it again.

Good luck, OP.  Because as your parents continue to grow older and become less competent to handle their own affairs, your sister is a position to exploit them further.    And hold on for the ride when your parents die.   I’m afraid your stories to Ehell are not over yet.

{ 44 comments… add one }
  • gramma dishes July 9, 2012, 10:45 am

    OP ~~ It is not too soon to discuss wills and Power of Attorney considerations regarding your parents. They might be more amenable to that discussion and actually acting to make it happen since your father is clearly aware of T’s way of dealing with things.

    If either of them should become seriously ill and/or especially if either of them might become victim to Alzheimer’s or other memory loss issues, you need to have their backs because your sister will certainly wipe them out financially otherwise.

  • girl_with_all_the_yarn July 9, 2012, 11:00 am

    Pardon me for saying so, but this is not someone with deficiencies in character. This is someone without a conscience. Someone with Antisocial Personality Disorder. A sociopath.

    She’s willing to put her daughter’s life at risk so she can keep smoking and having cats. She feels no guilt or shame when she steals or cons people. The suicide attempts so she can keep getting attention? Yeah. There will be no reasoning with her, and whether or not she’ll do it again is a no brainer. She’s going to continue trying until it blows up in her face so badly she’ll learn her lesson and never do it again just so she doesn’t have the negative consequences.

    OP, you really need to press charges. Maybe once she’s gotten into major trouble she’ll learn that you are not someone to be messed with.

  • MiseryLovesYou July 9, 2012, 11:11 am

    One of the reasons I love Ehell is that there are stories like this that confirm that other people’s families are just as bad as family members I have had to deal with in my life, and that it is ok to cut them off and keep them cut off forever. I wish someone would start an Ehell colony somewhere in Wyoming or something where the civil people could go to live together and be somewhat isolated from people like the sister in this story.

  • LilyG July 9, 2012, 11:14 am

    Yes, you were wronged. Mightly so. However, $3000 is not worth your peace of mind. Let it go and write it (and her) off. Don’t stay angry; it does nothing to her and erodes your life. Dismissing it from your mind means you win, so to speak. I am sorry she did such an awful thing to you and won’t take responsibility for it.

  • Hemi July 9, 2012, 11:23 am

    First, let me say that I am *very sorry* that your sister did this to you & your parents, OP. On the other hand, you stated in your first paragraph how manipulative she is; “she is always into one scheme or another, something which usually ends-up hurting the family financially or emotionally to the point that only my mom will still speak with her”. That is one of many clues that you and/or your parents should have paid for a storage unit for any items that could not/would not fit into the condo.

    I totally understand wanting to have a good relationship with your sister after many years of discord. I had a similiar relationship with my only sister and finally had to cut all ties for my own mental well-being. Family are often the ones that hurt you the most.

    As far as compensation is concerned- take Admin’s advice and let it drop. You state in your last paragraph that you are afraid of how crazy she is & things she could do to make your life miserable & say you would probably never see a dime of it anyway. I would not ask for 2 high quality guns as compensation; if your sister is truly as crazy and seemingly unstable as you make her seem, you might not like how you get those 2 guns. Also, you and your parents may want think about how to handle things when they pass. Like power of attorney and executor of their estate and/or will. You will still have tons of drama and problems with your sister;but if legal measures are put into place before you need them, you will be in a better position to pursue charges against her if she tries somthing similiar when your parents are gone.

  • Elizabeth July 9, 2012, 11:47 am

    I don’ t see this as a case of poor manners – this is manipulator who has been enabled by her parents. T sounds purely self-focused and self-absorbed.

    Some people need to be cut out of your life – don’t look back. Don’t get sucked back in. Steer clear and keep the toxic poison far away.

    A sad story. Take care of yourself, OP.

  • Roo July 9, 2012, 11:49 am

    “Dad even offered to BUY the items back, but she threatened that, if he “embarrassed” her like that, that she would take an ax to both items and leave the pieces in the condo driveway.”

    If he went to the people who traded them and bought them back fair and square, how could she possibly get to them to ax them? You call the cops to come arrest the lunatic who’s on your property chopping up your belongings! And if they didn’t want to sell, I’d imagine the people she traded them to would do the same – what’s she going to do, storm into their living room and start hacking up their piano? I’m sorry you’ve got a sister like this; that’s horrific and unfair, but I imagine she behaves like this in part because people have been giving in to her dumb, empty threats for way too long.

  • Ripple July 9, 2012, 11:50 am

    I agree with Admin’s last statements. If your parents have not already done so, they need to be clear in their wills that T does not get anything else as she has already received her portion (including the piano and kayak) as her share of the estate from the reduced price for the house and will not get another thing – not even any mementos. And your other sisters also need to know what happened so they don’t “feel sorry for” T and offer to split their share of the estate with her.

  • Wendy July 9, 2012, 12:52 pm

    I wonder if T would be this way if her parents hadn’t enabled her from the start. Did they make excuses for her when she was younger? Prevent consequences from coming down on her when she did wrong? I’m sure there is much more to this story than we’re seeing, though I’m sure there isn’t room for everything!

    I’d talk to a lawyer, just to see where you stand. Other than that, I echo the Admin…you’re in for a heck of a ride unless or until she changes (and she can change…but first she has to admit there’s a problem!)

  • marjoriemargarine July 9, 2012, 12:56 pm

    I feel like a lot of stories on here lately are more like, “I want to rant about a bad person” rather than about bad etiquette. Yes, there were a lot of etiquette breaches here, I guess, but most of this is just about a selfish, nasty person and the OP’s many personal issues with her.

  • KHR July 9, 2012, 1:01 pm

    The more I read this, the more I had the voice of Judge Judy running commentary in my head…

  • JWH July 9, 2012, 1:12 pm

    The operative phrase here is not “adverse possession.” The operative phrase is “bailment.” Though I don’t remember enough to know if there’s a bailment here or not.

  • Miss Raven July 9, 2012, 1:18 pm

    I don’t think this would be chalked up in my book as a “lesson learned.” In this case, I believe OP is entitled to some compensation — namely, a piece of the hot tub that she helped pay for. T needs to sell that thing and use the profits to try to repay her family members for their extremely valuable possessions.

    OP, I would be speaking to an attorney. I don’t think you’ll be burning any important bridges. This story ends in the courtroom. T doesn’t care about you, or your parents, or her daughter. She only cares about herself and she is toxic to keep in your life.

  • Gee July 9, 2012, 1:41 pm

    Your sister sounds like she has narcissistic personality disorder.

  • Cat Whisperer July 9, 2012, 2:17 pm

    Comments, in no particular order:

    1. “T” and her family clearly have issues that it would take a licensed family therapist or counselor to sort out, not an etiquette expert. Long experience with my mentally ill father have taught me that trying to impose expectations that are reasonable for people who are mentally and emotionally normal is futile when you’re dealing with a person who has mental or emotional stability issues. A whole different set of rules apply.

    2. Given “T’s” history as related by OP, for her family to entrust her with the care of cherished possessions bordered on insanity. If the kayak and piano wouldn’t fit in the condo the family bought, or in the home of another family member who could be trusted to take care of them, there are lots and lots of public storage rental options available. You pay someone to move the item, if it’s too big for you to handle yourself, and you pay a monthly fee to have it stored securely. Problem solved.

    3. You cannot uncrazy people who are crazy. It cannot be done. Any attempt to uncrazy someone who is crazy will result in frustration, disaster, chaos and great unhappiness for everyone involved. Crazy people are who they are. If you’re going to deal with with a crazy person, that has to be your guiding light. Instead of trying to uncrazy them, you accept that this (crazy) is who they are, and you adjust your actions and expectations accordingly.

    4. Relatives are people who have happened to us, not people we have chosen. Sometimes relatives are people who are toxic, sometimes relatives are people who are just not people we can get along with, sometimes relatives are actively and virulently malignant and dangerous. If we have relatives who fall into those categories, we have to accept that we may have to limit their impact on our lives by separating ourselves from them. This can be difficult, especially because people who are lucky enough to not have relatives who fall into these categories will not understand why you are doing what you are doing. That’s okay: they can only identify with what they know, and their reality is not your reality. If your reality is that you need to get your crazy father or your toxic sister or your malignant and mean brother or whoever out of your life, that’s okay because it’s your reality. Live your reality, not someone else’s.

    5. One of the ways to make yourself miserable is to batten onto the expectation that someone else’s accumulated wealth and property is going to devolve to you by right. If you free yourself from the idea that you’re ever going to be given or going to inherit someone else’s wealth or property and just make up your mind that you have to earn your own boodle, you will find your life is happier and less stressful. If you know you’re never going to inherit or be given someone’s wealth and property, you free yourself from their expectations. If they’re a louse and a boor, you’re free to treat them accordingly, because you don’t have to fear that they’ll take offense and disinherit you. If they give their property to someone else, it doesn’t upset you, because you never expected that it would be given to you. If they try to use the expectation of inheritance as a lever to try to control you, you’re free to laugh in their face and tell them to go pound sand, because you’ve already decided you aren’t going to get their stuff. Free yourself from the idea that anyone owes you anything, earn your own stuff, live within your own means, and you will be a happier and freer person.

  • Abby July 9, 2012, 3:29 pm

    I agree with those who stated that while T is clearly not a good person who really screwed over her family members, it was honestly not too bright of those family members to leave their extremely expensive and highly sentimental items in T’s possession. Yes, it’s sad that you can’t trust your sister/daughter to not flat out steal items she offered to safeguard, but the fact is sometimes you can’t, and you have to protect your stuff if it’s so important to you. Also agree with other posters that T’s parents share some blame for enabling her.

    Sorry OP, that sucks that you lost both your kayak and your repaired relationship with your sister. Sometimes people are just toxic. I don’t blame you for never wanting to talk to her again.

  • Library Diva July 9, 2012, 3:44 pm

    This is a very sad story, and it definitely echoes into my fiance’s family. His father’s sister and his mother’s brother are both exactly like this. His father’s sister spent her entire adult life sucking my fiance’s grandfather dry. He lived to be 95, and spent the last 15 years of my life living with fiance’s parents. They could always tell when it was Social Security day by the sight of her car in their driveway. She’s now in her 60s and has been trying this on her siblings now that her father’s gone.

    My FMIL’s brother is in his early 40s and has never moved out of home. He worked construction until he got injured. Now he collects disability and sits around his 83-year-old mother’s house smoking pot. He has a nasty, violent temper (which I once witnessed at a family party when he caught some of his teenaged cousins sneaking his beer: he screamed at them so loud, the entire 100 people or so at the party fell silent, had to be held back by one of his brothers, etc. etc. Oh yeah, he slammed my fiance’s mom — a 4-time cancer survivor and current cancer battler — up against a wall once, too). His mom is afraid of him. I think everyone else sort of is, too. Doesn’t help that a lot of his brothers aren’t so different from him.

    It makes me very sad for both sets of parents. I think it’s hard to know what to do. It’s easy to say, stop enabling them, cut them out, but I’d imagine it’s much, much harder to do. They remember when the person was a happy child, playing with blocks and telling everyone they were going to be a dinosaur expert when they grew up. Parents probably never stop hoping for a rosy, happy future for their child no matter how unlikely that outcome seems.

  • --Lia July 9, 2012, 5:15 pm

    Let me zero in on this statement: “This is the same sister who, when the family turns on her for her indiscretions, makes a suicide attempt so we’ll all back off. (Her attempts are all such that she makes sure she is caught and thus is never in any real danger of dying.)

    This is a good thing. The next time it happens, the family is in a perfect position to make sure gets into the mental health system. It might be counseling, a diagnosis, an evaluation, a hospital stay, the loss of custody of her daughter (where’s the father?), the loss of some legal rights, mediation, medication, something. From there, one of two things can happen. There could be a positive change for the better. (Doubtful, but I have to mention it.) Or, there could be a reasonable legal excuse for whatever you choose to do. If she tries to bilk money out of your parents, you point to the fact that she’s been diagnosed and can be deemed mentally incompetent. This can be pointed out to the courts as the reason no more money is forthcoming.

  • Aria July 9, 2012, 6:04 pm

    As soon as I read “Put it in her fiancee’s name” I knew it would be good. That’s the most idiotic thing I’ve heard in my life. They never should have sold her the house at all…

  • RedDevil July 9, 2012, 6:08 pm

    I get so frustrated at people claiming some disorder or another to explain away simple selfishness.
    I understand why we do this; as people with common morality, we can’t believe that someone would be so cruel and self-involved to act in such a way, therefore there must be something wrong with them. Sure, it’s true in some cases, but I think that most of the time it’s a learned behaviour, and can be put down to needing a decent kick in the pants (figuratively and/or literally).

    Maybe it’s just me, but I could swear that there’s one in every family – the parents ‘facilitate’ bad behaviour, and the child becomes the leech in the family – draining everyone else’s finances and emotions, and creating drama where there needent be any.

    Sorry, bit of a thinking-out-loud reply. I don’t have anything to offer the OP – she’s already cut the ‘leech’ from her life, which is about all any of us can do.

  • Vermin8 July 9, 2012, 7:49 pm

    Here was my first clue that this was not an ordinary etiquette issue but a criminal issue: “the house was put into her fiance’s name at her request, since T was on section 8 housing as her fiance’s “tenant” and owning a home would put an end to her benefits”
    That is known as fraud and that’s a crime. While some of you are saying “duh!” I wish the family had been that savvy. It’s naive to think a friend or relative who doesn’t feel guilty about cheating the government or strangers (ie taxpayers who are providing housing vouchers) won’t cheat them.
    That naivete has come back on them.
    Now it may come back on sis – apparently her husband is as dishonest as her – should the marriage split what’s going to stop him from tossing her out of HIS house?

  • Agania July 9, 2012, 8:07 pm

    GET YOUR PARENT’S TO DRAW UP A WILL!!!! Also get PoA if they somehow become incapacitated. Let the Kayak go and chalk it up to experience. Discuss with your parents and other sisters how the estate is to be divided because as far as I’m concerned your sister T has had more than her fair share. Also let your sisters know what has happened so they know why T is not in on these discussions. Good Luck!

  • Angela July 9, 2012, 9:54 pm

    “It’s as if the child is a skilled con artist who extracts all kinds of financial and emotional benefits from the parents by means of manipulation and often at the expense of the other siblings. ” I think you can strike the “It’s as if” part.

  • Cat Whisperer July 9, 2012, 10:33 pm

    Lia, regarding a declaration of incompetence: this is a very difficult thing to obtain, especially if the person you’re trying to have declared incompetent wants to fight the declaration. We explored this possibility with my father when he was having mood swings that had him wildly out of control, and he was putting my mom at risk by spending money he didn’t have on things he didn’t need and threatening to bankrupt himself.

    At that time, and it was some 20+ years ago, the lawyers we talked to estimated that the legal costs would exceed $10,000 and there was no guarantee that we could obtain a declaration of incompetence. We were also advised that most of the time, unless you’re talking about someone who is in something like a permanent, unrecoverable coma or some other condition that is untreatable and progressive, judges are very reluctant to grant a permanent declaration of incompetence. So what you get is a a declaration of incompetence subject to judicial review at some date in the future, usually a year.

    …So here’s the scenario you’re faced with. You decide to go for the declaration of incompetence. The person you’re seeking to have declared incompetent fights you, so you have a lot of legal costs, certainly more than $10,000 nowadays. You get your declaration of incompetence, and the person becomes subject to a conservatorship. So you get them into treatment and they get better, and when the incompetence review comes up, they ask to have it ended. If they’re smart enough to “game the system,” and OP’s sister certainly sounds like she is, they’ll come to court with a stack of reports of compliance with medication and counseling, and they’ll have therapists reporting that they’re now stable enough to be competent to manage their own affairs.

    So now you can fork out another $10 grand or so and fight to have the declaration of incompetence renewed, with no guarantee that you’ll be successful; or you can let it go and the judge ends the conservatorship and the person you worked to have declared incompetent walks out of court able to manage their affairs, and more or less promptly goes off their meds, quits their counseling, and goes back to the old way they behaved. And you’re back to square one.

    …Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that once they’re declared competent again, they can look into how the conservator managed their affairs, and if they’re really nasty, can demand an accounting for every penny of their property and sue the conservator for malfeasance if everything isn’t completely in order and accounted for?

    A declaration of incompetence and appointment of conservatorship only gets you into a whole new world of aggravation. It doesn’t make the aggravation of a mentally unstable relative go away. Realistically, how many people have the resources, either financial or emotional, to go that route? We didn’t. We found other ways to keep my father from bankrupting himself.

  • Vrinda July 9, 2012, 11:05 pm


    See a lawyer about that kayak and piano. Don’t let them go. If there were agreements made with T to store them until you and your father could store them yourselves, she traded property that wasn’t hers and is guilty of theft. She can’t be allowed to get away with a crime.

  • Cat July 9, 2012, 11:37 pm

    Your sister sounds like a perfect match for my brother. He has been a liar and a thief all of his life but, to the outside world, presents himself as a kind, compassionate, caring human being. You have to live with him to know he is none of those things.

    The phony suicide attempts are not signs of a mental illness, but rather those of a master manipulator. She knows how to play people as if they were your piano. Try to force her into counseling and you’ll find yourself portrayed as the villain while she plays the innocent victim.”Why, I thought she gave me the piano and the kayak…now she is pretending that I stole them. I just don’t know what to do….sob, sob.”

    I was fortunate that my parents died while I was in my early twenties and it was easy for me to escape any contact whatsoever with my brother. You may have to be in her company as your parents seem intent on enabling her, but I recommend simply realizing that every word she utters is a lie and keep your belongings with you so that she has no access to them.

  • David July 10, 2012, 12:51 am

    Sadly, I think the piano and kayak are gone and probably nothing can be done to recover any of the worth – as you say, your agreement was with your sister but she wasn’t the owner of the house at the time.
    However, now would be a great time for you, your parents and your remaining sisters to have a polite discussion about wills, PoAs and things like that. I’m not certain of the etiquette, but I would bring it up next time you talk to your dad.

  • The Elf July 10, 2012, 8:27 am

    I agree with Lily to let it go. It’s not worth the effort.

    But that doesn’t mean forget. You need to make sure that you are not in a position for your sister to either attack your stuff or attack you, and that means minimal and superficial contact. Asking for guns in compensation will just embroil you further. I agree with the Admin that this will go badly when your parents die – T will surely try to grab more than her fair share. If they don’t have solid, specific wills (and living wills and power of attorney), then they need to get them ASAP.

    The whole Section 8 fraud irritates the hell out of me. That’s a scam, pure and simple, and she’s taking money away from those who need it and charging hardworking taxpayers for it. That almost bothers me more than the kayak and piano.

    Lia, while the family might be able to get T an involuntary commitment and a mental evaluation the next time she “attempts” suicide, it is unlikely that this will go beyond a few days. Fact is, the mentally ill have rights too. If T doesn’t want help, she doesn’t have to get it. It is very difficult to establish that someone is a danger to themselves or to others for anything beyond a few days’ commitment (and even that can be difficult). Perhaps, if the family can arrange this, it might serve as a wake-up call to T, but I doubt it.

  • Margaret July 10, 2012, 9:41 am


  • Xtina July 10, 2012, 10:13 am

    I agree with those who say T should be reported for fraud to the government. That’s a big thing for me, anyway–people who defraud government benefits away from those who truly need them–and also as a way of getting even, frankly. But the other part of me says that karma is a b**** and she’ll get hers one day without me doing a thing–plus not sure it wouldn’t be more beneficial to simply walk away and never have anything to do with her again, especially if the OP is afraid of any repercussions that might occur as a result.

    Either way–I am sorry for the OP and her family, as T sounds like a sociopath. The kayak and the piano should probably just be written off–suing her would be more expensive and time-consuming that it would likely be worth financially, and if they willingly left those things in T’s house, there may not be much of a case anyway, without a written agreement to store the items.

    The OP and her family should definitely structure their will or business affairs in such a way that T can never have any part of them.

  • Shea July 10, 2012, 10:39 am

    I would swear we’re related. As someone else had mentioned, hate isn’t worth your time or energy. I would chalk this up to a very expensive lesson learned, wash my hands of it and walk away. It’s a very tough thing to distance one’s self from family, but sometimes there’s little other choice.

  • L July 10, 2012, 11:22 am

    Hi, I am the letter writer. I agree with cutting my sister out of my life completely, and like I said, I think any legal action would be for naught because I would never see any money anyway. I suppose I should have known better than to trust her, but this was my first time living on my own and I didn’t have the money for extra storage fees.

    I don’t know why my sister is the way she is. She is technically my half-sister. Dad adopted her and my oldest sister when he married mom when they were 10-13. But that never mattered to me. My oldest sister is the greatest! We really couldn’t have had it any better as kids, but T never liked discipline, and every time she had to do something she didn’t like it was “You’re not my real Dad!” When she didn’t get her way once as a teen, she told the school that Dad abused her. Big investigation, but everything was cleared in the end; this would have been in the 70s. Dad and Mom both worked full-time, we were watched by our Aunt after school, and after Mom retired Dad still worked 60+ hours a week for us. My sister is on a LOT of medication, and has been in therapy for years, but I believe seeing the therapist is more of an ego-boost; it’s not to solve her problems, it’s so she gets confirmation about how wonderful she is. Dangerous? She probably is. When her daughter began dating an older boy that T did not like, she chased him down the street with a loaded gun and always talked about how badly she was going to hurt him once he turned 18 ‘and it was legal.’ I believe she likes the way she is and is not about to change; she abuses the medication and alcohol and yet, blames IT for her behavior. But she knows. Her fraud? I think she could charm anybody and get-off scot-free.

    As for power of attorney and wills, because T got the house, Mom and Dad decided that that is more than her fair share of inheritance. She has NO SAY in POA either; only my Sister and I. Mom and Dad have everything in-order with their wills; they’re not stupid, it’s just that nobody wants to think badly of their children – they cut her all that slack because of their Granddaughter; isn’t that always the way! They’re all set in their condo for retirement; they had it made handicap-ready, so if it ever comes to them needing care they can stay there and they have more than enough for in-home nursing and plenty of friends and other relatives. I don’t know how I’ll live with myself if they ever needed me; I love them with all my heart but live a 15 hour drive away. I’d figure it out somehow though!

    T has burned all her bridges now and her daughter is out on her own, so she can stay in her beautiful house with her dozen cats and ill-gotten gains and be lonely. Maybe it was all about revenge against Dad for being, well, a Dad, and against me for being the youngest.

  • Abby July 10, 2012, 11:44 am

    I also don’t think much can be done legally. It is her word against yours that they were your items she agreed to store for you that she gave away without permission. Even if you could get a judgment against her, getting a judgment is very different from actually seeing a dime.

    Rereading this though, OP, I can’t help but be frustrated with your father. The MINUTE T started making noises about how much the piano was worth- especially given her history- should have set off an alarm and he should have made immediate arrangements to remove the property from T. Honestly, *why* did he think she was musing about that?

  • ferretrick July 10, 2012, 11:52 am

    I’m not qualified to comment on the legal stuff, although I agree that you and your parents should be talking to a lawyer about end of life/aging matters now. But sticking to just the piano and kayak-the sad lesson here is to never leave anything of value in other people’s possession. If you can’t bear to lose it, keep control of it. I no longer loan DVDs, books, or any other item unless I know I can replace it without getting bitter about it after losing far too many items that way. And-similar to you-I was storing my valuable ceramic village collectibles at my partner’s old house (he had moved in with me). They were out of the way, stacked against the far wall of the loft upstairs. He rented the house to family members for extra income and specificly instructed that my collectibles were not to be moved to the basement, which often got water. We told them if they were in the way to tell us and we would pick them up. We were assured they were no problem and would stay where they were. Fast forward a few months, and casually it comes up in conversation somehow that my collectibles are guess where? The flooding basement, but don’t worry, they are in the part of the basement that “doesn’t flood.” I’ve never known flood water to respect boundaries, have you? We went over and picked up every piece within a week, but sure enough the boxes on the bottom layer were soaked through, coated in filth and bugs. I learned the hard way-no one will take care of your property the way you will.

  • Obsidian Butterfly July 10, 2012, 12:43 pm

    I strongly recommend the book, “The Sociopath Next Door.” It may be very insightful for you to read about how 1 in 25 people are sociopathic con artists with no conscience. Everything you described about your sister fits the profile to a “T.”

  • icekat July 10, 2012, 2:43 pm

    It does sound as if there may be some mental health issues here. This is a person who, in addition to harming others, engages in behavior that is ultimately self-destructive (i.e., keeping so many cats she loses custody of her daughter).

    That said, I agree with others here that the best course of action is to protect yourself legally and avoid trusting her with anything. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if the behavior is caused by mental illness, an addition, or just being a terrible person–the results and the remedy are pretty much the same.

  • nevermind July 10, 2012, 4:44 pm

    Leaving something in someone else’s basement for 4 years is a long time (even if she did get rid of the items quickly) I’m more prone to go a little different route here than the all out “wash my hands of this family and be done with them” route.

    Years ago a family member asked to store things in my basement. years went by, things were moved around, areas of our home were shut down, basements cleaned out, attics repaired, etc. and to this day I do not know where the family member’s items went. (we live in a big country home with several out buildings) This member pops up, says ” i want to pick up X” (not everything–just one item) we say, “come get it” and it can’t be found anywhere. This family member had a breakdown over the item (an very inexpensive item that we finally said we would buy her a new replacement) She went on and on about how irresponsible we were, if we weren’t going to keep track of it and an eye on it we should have told her, etc.

    All I know is I allowed her to store her stuff, rent free and over the ensuing years, we lived here!!! We did not deliberately try to lose her things,we were very sorry that it could not be found, but weren’t going out of our way to keep an eye on it when we needed our space and needed to renovate and fix our home and outbuildings. Later then item was found and returned but by then the damage had been done.

    What I’m saying is, I think it’s very much taken advantage of a family member to ask them to store items in their home without paying rent. So, If your item is out of your sight, you need to either pay a storage fee with a contract, or pay regular visits to the item to make sure they are still there and damage free. Sometimes paying for a storage unit on a monthly basis is by far an easier thing than to make bad blood between families, especially when you knew sister was a little off kilter anyway.

    A $2000 – $3000 item is not a sufficient reason to wash your hands of your family, money never is. But having a mature, rational discussion with her would have gone a long way.

  • Angel July 10, 2012, 5:18 pm

    I have a friend with a crazy sister like that. Her dad has already changed his will so that the sister will get nothing after his death (her mother is already deceased). She has already gotten a considerable amount of money from him over the years. He bought her a couple cars, both of which she totaled. He paid for her to go to community college, she didn’t show up for classes. She got a house as part of an inheritance from another relative, then lost the house in foreclosure. You get the idea. I think almost every family has at least one relative like that!

    My point is, get your parents to change their wills. It will be a mess later on if they don’t.

  • The Elf July 11, 2012, 7:49 am

    Um, wow! Your additional information leads me to this totally amateur armchair diagnosis: Your sister is a psychopath. In a way, I’m glad that all her bridges are burned and she has a little come-uppance. A relative of mine is like that and now wonders why he is so lonely in his old age. I could give him a few hints, but really, why bother?

    Sounds like you and your family have taken all the necessary precautions.

  • L July 11, 2012, 10:57 am

    Hi, the Letter Writer again! I just purchased the book ‘The Sociopath Next Door’ and, well, it fits T to a T, especially when it explains that it’s hard to change this sort of person because they don’t WANT to change! Thanks for letting me vent. I’m sure the government will catch up with her someday and she’ll be out of friends to bail her out. I’m now realizing all the times I THOUGHT she was a changed person, helping me through some rough patches, that she was probably getting some sick pleasure from watching me be in pain. I guess it really is better that I just cut the poison out of the wound and forget about her.

  • Rebecca July 12, 2012, 1:25 am

    Hi there, yes, “sociopath” was the first thing that came to my mind after reading this story too. I’ve had an unfortunate experience with someone of this ilk too; before that I knew nothing of sociopaths. Please also read Robert Hare’s books “Without Conscience” and “Snakes in Suites: when psychopaths go to work.” You’ll find yourself nodding your head throughout. “Yep…yep…yep…”

  • Enna July 12, 2012, 9:07 am

    If “T” is committing fraud let the government know. If she is trying to kill herself then you need to make sure she gets the right help e.g. committed to a psycharity ward in hosptial. Your parents should disinherit her. See a laywer to see if you can get anything done. However if you knew what she was like then why did you leave the stufff there? I woudln’t. If she threatened to take an axe to the items call her bluff – if she did it then that woud be criminal dmage. DOn’t let her take anyhing else though!

  • LawGeek July 13, 2012, 7:35 pm

    JWH is right. This is bailment, not adverse possession. The key to adverse possession is that it must be ADVERSE, that is, against the interest of the owner. This was not, since you agreed to let her hold the items. When two parties agree that one will take care of an item, the person in possession of it has the legal obligation to take care of it. She is responsible for loss or damage.

    As to there being no point to legal action – she owns a home, does she not? If you win in court, you can seek a lien against her home. If she has wages, you can seek to garnish them. I don’t know why you think she has the choice whether or not to comply with a court order. Her being a difficult person” has nothing to do with with whether or not you sue. That sounds like an excuse. So does the notion that she can somehow charm her way out of court. Lawyers and judges spend their careers seeing through that sort of bullshit and getting to the facts.

    As to the people who think it is the writer’s word against her sister’s, it is not. Their parents were witness to the agreement.

  • Keebs August 26, 2012, 11:53 pm

    This sounds almost exactly like my older sister. She manipulates my mother and father so much.

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