Elder abuse: Couple ruined by ‘loan’ to daughter
A FATHER suffered a nervous breakdown and claims he has "lost everything" following a bitter court battle with his daughter over a $163,000 loan.
The dispute first began when David and Glenda Joy's adult daughter Lucy inherited a £200,000 ($363,640), three-bedroom house in Slough, England after her paternal grandmother passed away in 2009.
Mr Joy's brothers challenged the inheritance, claiming Lucy had taken advantage of their mother, who had dementia.
The extended family was not able to settle the matter, so it ended up in court, and Mr Joy agreed to help his daughter pay her legal fees, which cost him $133,900 (£73,600).
The family eventually reached a $163,000 (£89,680) settlement.
Mr Joy said he agreed to pay the settlement in the form of a loan, and that his daughter had vowed to repay him by signing over the house she had inherited into her stepmother Glenda's name.
According to the UK couple's version of events, Lucy promised to pay her parents rent until she had repaid the entire cost of the loan, at which point the house would then be returned to her ownership.
After reaching that alleged verbal agreement, Mr and Mrs Joy remortgaged their three-bedroom home in Cornwall in southwest England to cover Lucy's debt.
A month later, they contacted Lucy to ask when she would sign over the deeds to the house, which she declined to do.
They finally took her to court in 2017 in a last-minute bid to recover their losses, but lost their case this month.
A judge ended up ruling in Lucy's favour after she argued the money had been given as a gift and not a loan.
Mr Joy, a retired British Airways worker, told the Mail on Sunday he had suffered a nervous breakdown as a result of the rift with his daughter, who he has since disowned.
"It wasn't meant to go this way," he said. "You trust your children, don't you? Why would you get them to write an IOU?
"But it's cost us everything. I haven't got a daughter any more.
"I can't get my head around it. When you love your children you can't envisage things would turn sour."
Mrs Joy said her husband was so worried about his finances as a result of the dispute he was now "like a haunted man".
She said her stepdaughter had "turned" after the couple confronted her about signing over the house, and that she regretted not insisting on a written contract.
"She said, 'You're trying to steal my baby's inheritance, screw the pair of you', loaded up her car and drove off," Mrs Joy told the Mail.
"I still have bad nights over the injustice of it all - and our stupidity. I should have said, 'sign something'."
Mr Joy said the couple hadn't spoken to their daughter for months and that he didn't even know if he could bring himself to attend her funeral if she happened to pass away.
"Lucy has got what she deserved. But she didn't deserve to do it at our expense," he said.
"Fighting over a £200,000 ($363,600) house has cost us everything."
Sadly, Sydney barrister Bridie Nolan said similar cases were common in Australia.
"In certain cases the law can presume that money advanced to adult children is to provide for them, and is understood as a gift. In other instances the money may be construed as children inheriting early," Ms Nolan said.
"The best course for all parents lending money to their children or advancing money to assist them in purchasing property is to ensure that the loan is contemporaneously documented.
"If it is a loan, parents should stipulate in writing, even if it is by an email, the amount of the advance, the terms on which the loan is to be repaid, when it is due and whether interest is to accrue on the principal sum."
Ms Nolan said it was always essential to make a written record of the agreement.
"If money is advanced in respect of property, in addition to documenting the purpose of the loan, it is wise to agree with the child to whom the money is advanced a mortgage over the property, further to which a caveat can be lodged on title to protect the parents' interest," she said.
"These simple measures are often for the benefit of familial relationships - settling clearly these issues early, although potentially awkward, is better than losing the relationship later to an ugly dispute."