I have (or should I say "had") a wealthy benefactress who gave me money six years ago.
Now her financial situation has changed (she only has a few million left) and she wrote to me last week that she wanted the money she “provided” back – adding that I don't have to pay any interest, "If that helps."
My partner had five strokes
Nine years ago I had several difficult life scenarios that took me by surprise. My partner broke his neck and suffered five strokes, and I became a full-time caregiver.
In addition, my adult child developed a severe, incapacitating mental illness and came to us, which was very stressful for me personally.
Although I was operating on a tight budget, I was at the beginning of a start-up. I actually had two outside jobs to fund the business and meet the financial obligations of my entire household. I managed, but definitely not what would be called thriving.
One of the jobs I did enabled me to work with a new client and get a new client going through a serious divorce. To serve this client and to be naturally generous and compassionate, I spent extra time listening to this sad and broken person.
One day she let me know of her own free will, completely unexpectedly and unsolicited, that she wanted to help me financially. She offered to give me some of the money she received in her divorce settlement because she said she could afford it and she felt that I had helped her in a tremendous way.
In her words she said: "I saved her life".
"I have made it clear that I am not looking for a loan"
She offered $ 75,000. I told her that I appreciate her kind offer, but that I can never repay that amount – or even an amount.
In other words, I've made it clear that I'm not looking for a loan.
She asked me to reconsider because it would mean so much to her to be able to help me. After discussing it with a few trusted friends and my partner, my position changed. I replied that I would accept your help as long as we were both clear and willing to sign an agreement that this was a gift, not a loan, and that no repayment was expected.
The very next day she came to my house with a check for $ 75,000. We signed the letter.
There were no rules about how this money could be spent, nor were there any conditions like interest.
Your circumstances have changed dramatically
The woman has never worked for six years and her livelihood will soon cease. She has to sell her married home, which was just valued at $ 900,000. She is in a financial panic.
Meanwhile my business is getting stronger. But in 2020 two-thirds of operations had to be closed for seven months due to COVID-19.
I've turned, decided to downsize, and am now leaving the state to save costs and revive business after COVID (or whatever the virus ends).
The day I move, I get a text message from the woman saying I have to repay the $ 75,000 she gave me but won't charge any interest.
Of course, I reminded her that this money was given voluntarily and was never a loan and that we signed an agreement. I added that it would be futile to pursue me as I have no property or assets and work 12 hours a day to rebuild after the 2020 COVID setbacks.
My question is: do I have to worry that I owe this woman the money she gave me just because circumstances have changed?
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Dear gift giver,
There is no such thing as free money.
Courts will not treat a gift letter as a legal document if there is improper manipulation, fraud, or manipulation that the court deems unfair. In addition, there is a limitation period of three to 15 years, depending on the federal state in which you live.
"Proof of the gift requires evidence of the donor's clear intention to donate, actual or token surrender of the subject matter of the gift, and absolute and irrevocable waiver of property by the donor," said The Law Office of James P. Yudes.
The best reaction in situations like this – where you feel torn – is to trust your gut instinct. Your moral compass told you not to take that $ 75,000, but you needed the money and it was convincing, so you accepted. She was a customer, and it is unclear whether she – even unconsciously – believed that she was getting a friendship for the money.
Since you wanted to invest the money in your business and could not guarantee the repayment, signing the gift letter will protect you, provided that you were sane and you do not make any immediate repayment attempts. Gift letters are most commonly used in the mortgage process and are legally binding agreements for better or for worse.
The circumstances of your acquaintance are grim. They say you spent time listening to this sad and broken person. That was your cue: nowhere could she give so much money away to someone she barely knew. She, too, must have listened to you so that you can share your own trials and difficulties with her.
I don't doubt that you lost your sleep trying to keep your business afloat, but you also took the time to divulge the details and thus it is hard to accept your statement that you could accept that money more freely because she offered it without being asked. You may not have asked her for the money, but you gave her enough information to offer it.
The former client is likely to pay the $ 75,000 price tag to learn a valuable lesson: don't act impulsively and try to save the world, especially when you're going through something as traumatic as a divorce. The price for you, I believe, is to be brutally honest about the complex circumstances that led up to the day you signed the document.
Whether or not she has worked for six years is irrelevant. The only thing she doesn't deserve – a $ 75,000 gift or not – is your judgment.
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