Follow
Share

We were estranged from my husbands mother for 5 years. They started talking 4 yrs ago and after a year she fell, went to hospital and they wouldn't release her to go home without someone staying with her full time. I took on that responsibility. We became POA's and took over her affairs. She was 3 months behind on her mortgage and 10,000.00 in debt on her credit card. We have paid some of it down but with her mortgage and medical bills and regular bills we cant pay it down. She gets a SS check ( not much) and now is on Hospice. With just a few months left.. We have one income and our own bills... Credit card company still calls daily and wants the card paid off. Are we responsible for her bills? Oh did I mention she hasn't filed taxes for 2 yrs before we took over as POA?

Find Care & Housing
This is a good article on how liability attaches to credit card obligations.   It differentiates between joint holders and authorized user, which are the criteria establishing whether or not someone is responsible for someone else's charges.

https://www.thebalance.com/joint-account-vs-authorized-user-960212

Momof5and8, are you familiar with the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act?   I skimmed the earlier posts and didn't see it mentioned, so hopefully I'm not duplicating anyone else's response.

The FDCPA establishes terms for collecting on debts, and also establishes rights of the holder.  

If debt collectors are still calling, they're likely not going to stop if their calls are answered.   If you've gotten a written letter, the credit card holder (your mother, assuming she's the sole authorized party on the card), or given her situation, someone who's been granted proxy authority under a DPOA or POA can and should respond on her behalf.   That should be emphasized in the response letter.

I haven't checked the statute recently, but it used to require responses w/i 30 days of the date of receipt of the letter.   Your position would be that your mother is "judgment proof" (if this is the case), i.e., has no funds to pay on the debt.  Therefore it's not collectible.   Period.  

Then don't respond to any calls or any further harassment letters w/o referring to the 30 day notice response.

If you want to confirm the terms of the FDCPA, you can usually get nominal free advice through Senior Centers which have attorneys hold short information sessions with elders in the area.  

And, PLEASE, do not take the credit card company's calls.
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to GardenArtist
Report
Momof5and8 Feb 10, 2020
Thank you for your reply. She is the sole proprietor on the card.. We are on her bank accounts just so we can pay her bills. I will research this further. Once again thank you.
(2)
Report
Just want to say something about Credit Cards. I personally would not even pay the minimum. Why, because at this point its not even going to the principle. Most of the debt is probably late fees and interest. And the interest is calculated before the payment is applied. Just had one of my CCs tell me it was now 28% a year. TG I pay it off when I am billed. This is how they keep you in debt. To get 10k down it would mean large montly payments. Not sure how freezing the accts work. Do they still charge monthly interest and late fees. Freezing just means the person can no longer use the acct?
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to JoAnn29
Report

See a certified elder law attorney. Whatever you do, do not pay any of her bills from your own account.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to gladimhere
Report
MargaretMcKen Feb 9, 2020
Yes, if my suggestions seem too hard, go to an attorney. However they will almost certainly want the same list of assets and debts.
(0)
Report
I’d suggest that you do a table of what your mother owns and what she owes. If the debts are more than the net assets, her best bet is bankruptcy. Just tell that to the creditors, and they will probably stop bothering you and her. If her assets are more than her debts (and get a very careful and conservative assessment of the net equity in her house ie sale value less mortgage), she may be able to get a compromise to pay off some of the smaller debts, just to get them out of the way before she dies. The creditors need to know that her debts are increasing with interest as time passes, and accepting a compromise now is their best bet. That will simplify dealing with what is left of her assets when you realise her estate. Creditors aren’t stupid, so long as they know the true situation. They don’t throw good money after bad, trying to collect from someone who has nothing, or putting them through bankruptcy. They need to know that she has nothing and that you aren’t picking up the tab for any of it. Good luck.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to MargaretMcKen
Report
rovana Feb 9, 2020
Right!  They need to know you are NOT picking up the tab (out of your own funds) for any of her debt.
(0)
Report
I love the “No longer at this address.” Sounds good to me.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to NeedHelpWithMom
Report

I am assuming that you are not owners on MIL's credit card and none of the charges were yours.  But you are POA's?  So they will try to get you to pay with MIL's MONEY as POA.  You personally are not financially responsible.  You as POA will probably have to deal with the IRS, unless MIL dies and your POA ceases.  Then job for her executor.   Other posters can provide info on your rights when dealing with collection callers.  But do not sign or agree to anything, be very careful you are acting only in your capacity as POA for MIL. Her bills are NOT yours. You do not want to acquire them by paying them with your own money.  Other posters will have information on this danger. Period.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to rovana
Report

I had to laugh at "no longer at this address". Really a good idea.

Your MIL may not have had to pay income tax if all she had was SS. My Mom and MIL both received letters saying they no longer had to file because their income was low. SS is not taxable if income is under 30k. Both my MILs brought in about 20k a year. Most of it SS.

Tell the collections agencies they are not to call you again. That Mom is on hospice and you are not responsible for her bills. If possible, block the numbers. Once you tell them not to call, they are not suppose to. Keep a record. You can report the, to the FTC. There are rules that collection agencies have to follow.

Right now keeping her Mortgage going is the most important thing and paying Medical bills. Once she is gone though, they are not your responsibility. If u sell the house, the proceeds can be used to pay off her bills. If there isn't any then they can't be paid.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to JoAnn29
Report
Geaton777 Feb 7, 2020
JoAnn, my MIL's only income was SS at $690-ish p/mo and stepFIL was $940-ish, so nothing to report on taxes. Yes to paying the mom's medical bills.
(0)
Report
See 1 more reply
Agree with Alva below. My in-laws were deep in debt when we took over their affairs due to failing health, dementia, Parkinsons. They also owed $10K in cc's, and were under water on a second mortgage. Even before they went into NHs, we just stopped paying the mortgage because their meager SS checks couldn't cover the payments. No point in paying for a home they'd never own, with no equity. We let the house go into foreclosure, just informed the mortgage company of the situation and HOA and ignored any paperwork. As for any collection letters, we just marked them "No longer at this address" (which was true). Don't pay anything towards any of her debts. I'm sorry that you are left with this situation. I can totally relate. Peace to you.
Helpful Answer (4)
Reply to Geaton777
Report

No, you are not responsible and could never clean up what has already happened. You are responsible to act for your MIL in the best way you can. Pay minimum amounts on those things you are able to out of her funds. DO NOT SPEAK to her creditors. Tell them that she is unwell and unable to speak with them. Upon her death you will be responsible to pay, out of what money she leaves, what bills you are able. NEVER agree to pay in her stead, or for her. Make no promises to them. Creditors may attempt to collect against an estate up to one year after your MIL death. When the money has run out you simply send back notices saying "Deceased; left no estate". Just NEVER pay out of your own money. Your mother in law will die in debt. Her estate, whatever she leaves, whatever she has that can be sold, stands to pay her debts until her funds are exhausted; sounds like that will not take long. You didn't make the bills and you are not responsible for the bills.
As with all things, do not take the advice of those of us on the forum, but rather pass them by someone knowledgeable, a lawyer. That is something that you as POA can pay for, an hour of time with an elder care attorney.
Helpful Answer (5)
Reply to AlvaDeer
Report

I don’t know the answer but I am responding so other posters will see your post and help you.

Good luck with resolving this issue.
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to NeedHelpWithMom
Report

Ask a Question

Subscribe to
Our Newsletter