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Her only income is social security and she has no assets. She lives in my mobile home on my property. She pays no rent or utlilities. She does everything for herself and will not let anyone help or know her financial situation. I have recently discovered she is in deep credit card debt. So far she's not behind on any bills but she's charging constantly and only making minimum payments. It takes her whole check just to make the minimums. Soon I'll be retired and only be living on social security. I won't be able to pay her utilities after that. She may need to move to an apartment eventually then she'll have to pay her own rent and utilities as my health is not good. I need help in Kansas. What can I do about this charging and debt she has? She gets very mad and changes the subject if I bring up the subject. I keep thinking that eventually she will max out but they keep increasing her credit line. Is there anything I can do?

I went through the same thing with my mother. She was racking up debt and not telling anybody especially me. When it all came out I was shock and appalled, although I had a feeling of what she was doing; I just didn't think it was as bad as it was.

I post here about it and I got the answer "that people can make poor decisions all they want." It is so true!

So, like your mom my mother would get angry if I tried to address the problem with her finances. I had to let it go. You are not going to like my answer and believe me I didn't like it either, but there was nothing I could do. My mother could make all the bad decisions she wanted too, and she did not want my help. Ugh!

I let her continue to do what she was doing because I knew it would come crashing down on her and it did. Now, she is in thousands of dollars in debt. So now I handle her finances and she had to quit paying on the CCs to be able to pay both truck payments, Rx, and house bills. She will be filing bankruptcy.

If I was you I would start getting mom's mail and start seeing where she is at with each bill. Start with telling her what you have said here, but I have a feeling she will just tell you--"I know! I have it under control. Stay out of my business." Your mom will eventually have to stop paying them because she will get to the point where she won't have any cash! This is where you will have to come in and tell her to quit paying her CCs. If your mom has no assets than the banks can't get anything out of her. And no they can't come after you as long as your name is not on any of the CCs accts.

It is like watching a train wreck and can't do anything about it! Sigh!

Good Luck!
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chasvix May 2, 2019
I am thinking bankruptcy will be the only way out. I have tried to address it with her and as you say she basically tells me to butt out. I'm not one for confrontation so I'm just going to let her go until it comes crashing down and she will have to ask for help. Then I'll have to take over. Some say they can't touch her social security. But I don't think she could just stop paying them. The sad part is she has the house completely full, almost to the point of hoarding although it is neat and clean. Just full of new unused stuff that she'll never use. She watches QVC and such then orders. So she has a shopping issue. I just cant understand these places letting someone that age continue to rack up more and more debt. I guess what I am wondering is, is bankruptcy the only option when it all comes down.
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When parents do not have to pay their way, rent, utilities, insurance, property tax etc, they may feel entitled to spend their entire pension in other ways. Then they aer shocked when they face the reality check, if they do have to pay their way.

What to do? Tell her you have reviewed your budget and can no longer afford to rent the mobile home for free, nor pay her utilities. Find out the going rent in your area and tell her that moving forward she will have to pay that amount. Utilities too.

Do this prior to retiring, so you can create a bit of a cushion for your own use.

As far as the CC debt goes. CC are unsecured and the debt will die with her, if she has no assets.
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janlee May 7, 2019
Great advice. Mom should be a renter and contribute to household. If and when mom’s credit cards go to collection she might need to get with a financial advisor and claim bankruptcy. I would call your local department of aging for advice on this. Or let her. But to the source of her shopping therapy talk to her about her life. Does she get out and have a social life or anything to fulfill her?
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Her SS income can't be touched by these types of creditors, so she won't lose her income to them. The next shoe drops when she has to use her income to support herself, which you expect her to do. Maybe help her find appropriate services and housing but don't bail her out. You eventually may qualify for assistance with your utility bills.
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So glad after my Dad died Mom got rid of her credit cards. If she didn't have the money she didn't buy it. It carried thru into her Dementia.

Not sure how you are going to get Mom help if she won't admit the debt.
You need to tell her what you said here. That you no longer will be able to pay her bills. So you both need to sit down and discuss her finances. There is Senior housing where Moms rent is based on her income. There are resources she can take advantage of.

I would suggest getting a credit advisor. Office of Aging may have someone free of charge. Moms cards should be frozen. She maybe able to get a consolidation loan, That way she has one payment a month. But she does not charge anymore. Paying the minimum on a large amount of money doesn't touch the principle. She can't get out of debt if she keeps spending. She may have to file for bankruptcy.
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If your mother is of sound mind and in charge of her own affairs there is nothing you can do. You are not responsible for her debts, and they likely will never be collected on; however, there will be nothing left to help with her care when she most needs it. It may be time for a power of attorney situation, court appointed if your Mom is not capable of handling her affairs. If she IS capable, there is absolutely nothing you can do about how she spends her money. Be certain that your Mom's name is not on anything of yours at all, or it is as good as giving it to the bank. You should perhaps consider charging minimal rental to put away for the future for her.
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I’ve been where you are now. After the shock comes the stress of what to do about it.

First, verify that none of her credit has been secured by any property or income. Credit cards are almost always unsecured. If she stops paying, her creditors cannot do anything but sue and, frankly, she could be gone by the time that happens.

Do NOT use any of your money to pay them.

Take me them away from her. If she won’t give them to you, report them as stolen and intercept the replacements. There are credit cards that are specifically for people with dementia. You can control her daily spending and block her from certain businesses or categories of businesses. Get her one of those and see if she can manage it. If she can’t. Put her on a cash allowance.

Then, take a careful look at all of her accounts and decide how much, if any, of each you want to pay. Keep in mind that the credit card companies had the ability to check her income, determine how much credit card debt she had, and limit her credit. They chose not to and that means they accepted the risk.

If she is only making minimum payments, the lion’s share of the balance is interest (probably high, usury rate interest). Personally, I’d estimate how much of the balance represents what she actually borrowed and that’s what I’d plan to pay.

If your mom has nothing to lose by having her credit tank, why keep her in poverty especially if she’s going to have to start paying her own way. Also, you should be charging her rent and utilities to establish that you’re supporting her.
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mmcmahon12000 May 3, 2019
She can't do any of those things unless her Mom made her POA. From the original post, it appears she didn't.
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If your mother does decide to listen, here's one person who can help her: Dave Ramsey.
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Have her arrange to have utilities direct drafted from her acct. Make sure your name and number are not listed as next of kin on her credit cards or they will be calling YOU.
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You have received a lot of good and caring advice here.

But, it must still be overwhelming.

Do you own this mobile home and the land on which it it located, on your own -- it's okay if you owe money on that, but is it all titled just in your name, with maybe a lien holder/mortgage lender?

If so, please stop with the free guesthouse arrangement, because that's what it is.

You know how much your mother gets in social security, right? And, how much the utilities cost, on average, every month, right?

So, don't say or write anything about having let her live there for free. Not to anyone. Lots of legal ramifications if you do that.

Make it simple. Send her a short letter that says, basically, enclosed is a lease that you should read, and have any lawyer of your choice read, and you have 30 days to sign it and either (1) deliver a bank/cashier's check for rent for _____ through _____, and a security deposit in the amount of $______, or (2) leave the "property." And, the lease should be crystal clear: she, as a tenant, is responsible for $_____ monthly rent, due by a fixed date every month, with a 3-day grace period, and she is responsible for all utilities bills, and all telephone and cable and WiFi. You, as the landlord, have no legal obligation to pay for utilities, cable, telephone, etc. The lease should have a section that makes it easy for you to check the boxes the way you want. And, if done right, you will have no financial obligations other than what is required under your state's landlord/tenant law and cannot be changed through a lease.

Someone else posted here that you cannot legally disconnect the phone. I am not sure that is true. I believe that your mother, as a renter (or to-be renter) has to get a phone in her name and be responsible for the bills. And, as far as repairing or replacing necessary appliances and plumbing, etc, if your mother agrees to this lease, just get yourself an appliance service contract, won't cost more than $400 a year. Well worth it.

And, this lease, that I am suggesting, should not be for more than 6 months. Not a year, just 6 months. If it is for a year, would have to be in writing (statute of frauds), but do it in writing anyway, please, even though it is for 6 months. That gives you a 30-day "leave the property" option. Don't play around with her. And NO option for renewal in this 6-month lease.

I do think that we do not know the whole story here, but that's okay. I am trying to protect you.

Lots of things you can do about her credit cards, but you have to be willing to be accused of crossing a line. Unless you have the legal rights through a POA.
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Keep in mind that her debts are not your debts. I hope that none of these accounts are joint. I agree that you could start charging her rent and her portion of utilities. I wonder if she will agree to that. This should be a warning to anyone out there who lets someone live on or in their property rent free. It is very difficult to take that decision back. Do not do it.
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