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I had to place my mom in a nursing home due to dementia and many, many other issues. Working on cleaning up her estate. Mom was very belligerent and secretive. Sixty days into this, I get a collection notice for $55,000 of credit card debt. It is legitimate. I have been trying to apply for MassHealth as she is going to run out of money very shortly. I have been using an attorney to help with this. However, he says I need to "resolve" the debt issue before we can finish up the MassHealth application. I called the collection agency at the attorney's instructions. He said to make an offer. I offered $10,000 to clean up the debt. All the collection agency says is, "we have to talk to the client" each time I call. This has been going on for weeks. I told them that there will be nothing if the "client" doesn't make a decision. At this point, I am very frightened, tired and worn down by all of the POA work, and my mother threatening my wife and I with lawsuits everyday because of the guardianship we were able to get by the court. I am at wits end. Any input? I need help. Thank you.

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Declare bankruptcy. It will cost you about $1,500.0 and save a lot of heartache. Your Mom doesn't need a credit rating.
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I would try http://www.massresources.org/legal-help-online.html#seniorhelpline as they cover credit card debt. They may have a resource for getting the debt collector to stop harassing you.
I really like the suggestions from igloo572!
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About the 55K, couple of things on debt:
1. Mom may get a 1099-C on the 55K. 1099-C's are totally loco to deal with as it is a whole new level of zombie debt. It will come from the original creditor and could be more than 55K as they can tack on all fees, late charges, etc. It does not have to be done in the year the debt was forgiven either. It could come in 2015 or 2016 taxes. IF MOM GETS A 1099-C YOU HAVE TO FILE TAXES FOR HER for that year. IRS views 1099-C (cancellation of debt) as income. And for more fun, income that taxes are to be paid on too. Now you can do a whole impoverishment filing for her that will wipe out the debt to satisfy the IRS, will run about $ 200 - 300 for a CPA to do (any you have 2K in her "asset" to pay for this). You do need to do it because otherwise it could show up as "income" if your state does an IRS / Medicaid matching & could possibly pose a problem for Medicaid as mom has 55K " income". Yeah totally whack.

2. Debt collectors - If the 55K is still with the original creditor (VISA, AMEX), they will write it off. Usually within 6 months and it will be sold to debt collectors and resold and resold. My late MIL was a financial terrorist and we had to deal with their stuff with her, she just blithely went on for years running up debt. The debt collectors will be relentless and you have to decide just how to deal with all this. What we did was get a rented mail box for everything MIL debt to go to. UPS stores have rental boxes and they have a nice street address. Get one (pay out of mom's funds too) and send a change of address to every creditor mom has. Also you might think of having everything for mom sent here. This way you go once a week, twice a month, whatever works for your sanity and get all her mail and deal with it. You can kinda expect the debt collectors to work her account for a couple of years so whatever you can do to distance your & your wife's credit from her's is best. We sent letters that clearly stated that any & all communication had to be sent in writing (to the new mail box) and that no phone calls were to be made due to her limited cognitive state. Sent the letters certified mail with return registered receipt. If they already have your cell & home number, you just have to stay calm & direct and tell them that this is not mom's phone and all communication must be in writing and then hang-up. You and your wife have to both be consistent on this.

3. Mom's income - SS is protected income. No debt collector even if they get a judgement can attach mom's SS income. It is federally protected (also most retirements too) from seizure. The only thing that can attach SS is the IRS. Another reason why to deal with the 1099-C if that happens. Mom has to use her SS as her required co-pay to the NH, so you don't want to do anything to jeopardize her status @ the NH.

Good luck, try not to get too overwhelmed and remember to make the time for a "date night" with your wife.
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Hugedoof - Honey, sounds like your attorney has never grown a pair, I'd move on & away from him. OK I am going to take a whole other tactic in this clusterF and the CC gets nothing, nada, zilch in all this. It gets "resolved" by the CC writing off the debt. Things mom needs for her care come first & foremost.

Mom has approx 70K right?. Ok so what is the maximum amount allowed for mom to have as an asset for Mass Medicaid? Most states have "assets" at 2K so lets set aside 2K for this. Mom now has 68K and she pays NH 11K. You do need to make nice with the NH and ask if there is anything else that could have been overlooked on the bill and pay that too. So after NH old bill Mom now has 57K. Lets plan on setting aside 2 or 3 months to private pay for her NH. Mass is east coast so it is high…lets say set aside 30K for 2 -3 months. The 60 -90 day to get all there rest of her money spent, moved, changed etc and cleared through her bank statements. So now 27K for mom.

Mom needs to do a 27K spend down asap. If she does not have a prepaid NCV funeral & burial policy, you need to do this first imho. Most states have this set at a max of 10K. Personally I think the whole funeral stuff is a waste of cash but carefully think of just what you need to do to make mom's final something you can live with for the least amount of money (without nuclear fall out from family) So lets say, you can get funeral & burial done for 7K. When you are at the funeral home, see if they can do a small term policy of 1K - 1,500K for unanticipated funeral costs. Now it may cost $ 700 / 800 for a 1K policy (as she is old) but most states allow a small funeral fun to be an exempt asset. And really there will be some costs - floral, policy escort, etc - that is not included in the policy so why not set $ aside for this now. Oh NCV is no cash value - anything you do in the spend down has to be NCV including the insurance policy. Make this your mantra.

So mom now down to 19K. If mom needs any dental work, now is the time to do this. Dental alone could be all the rest of the money. For my mom, it was thousands upon thousands of dental work and really it was worth it. Medicaid does not pay for any dental so it's really now or never for her to have the funds to get dental done. I would get her duplicate eyeglasses and hearing aid too as these just frickin walk out of their room at the NH. She could get a nice walker too - the ones on Medicaid are dreck. If still money left and there is any legal loose ends for her, use her funds to update her legal (yeah pay the attorney). If still money left, if she is a avid reader get her several large print subscriptions. Mom is now at zero in her spend down. Champagne all around!! Will do another post on the debt.
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HD, you may want to try mailing them a check for the $10,000 with a notation on it as paid in full with the collection account number. Send it certified, return receipt. In my state if it is cased, it constitutes a legal agreement. I have no idea about Massachusetts law.

I think that they are most likely stalling, thinking they may get the full amount if mom passes soon. It is also my understanding that many collection companies purchase the delinquent accounts from the creditor for the right to collect the debt. Then the creditor is no party to the settlement of the debt. They probably bought this $55,000.00 debt for less than $5,000.00. That is a pretty darn good return on their investment! I would start probably with sending a check less than the $5,000.00 to see if they will deposit it. Check with your attorney before you do this. If you want to put your question out there to a variety of attorneys, receive responses at no charge, check out the website AVVO.
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pamstegman - thank you for your input. However, I really haven't achieved a solution. My instinct is to fire the attorney I am using, as he hasn't done anything, and has me running around collecting documents, i.e., 5-year look back, will, POA, bank statements, HCP etc. We seemed close to getting the MassHealth application ready, but the surprise $55,000 credit card debt threw a wrench into everything. The MassHealth application/annuity was to save the remaining dollars from her estate. However, with the credit card debt, another nursing home bill for $11,000 (mind you this is Massachusetts), I don't see much point in trying to go this route. She has $69,000 left and after the next nursing home bill, she'll have $58,000 left. Like I said, just seem to be caught in a nasty feedback loop. Shaking head.
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Huge, I don't mean to scare you. My daughter got brain cancer and was harassed endlessly by unscrupulous debt collectors, so I am combat hardened.
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They verify the POA and Guardianship each time we "chat". The state attorney general may be the next step. Although, any action with the Mass. AG's office would result in the usual "we talked to xyz, but didn't get anywhere. You're case will be placed on file. If you wish to retain an attorney....". And, utilizing the AG will result in years of litigation vs. any reasonable and timely solution.
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They have copies, but the person is sitting at a computer terminal and you have to tell them "go back through the logs and you will see the POA" If they still refuse, write your complaint letter to the SAG. Following that, they become more cooperative.
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@pamstegman. Yes ma'am. I'll jump right on it. I already have done what you have asked. There isn't an issue regarding talking to me etc. They are "stalling". They have copies of the POA and Guardianship order. No avail. So, here I sit. Your answer doesn't create a solution. It actually raises "the temperature" of the battle. Not sure whether some form of bankruptcy might be in order. I am out of ideas and not getting help from the attorney I am working with.
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You ask for the collector's fax number and fax them a copy of the Guardianship court order. Write down the date, time and who you spoke to and what company they represent. You inform them that failure to work with the legally appointed Guardian is an unfair debt collection practice and you will report them to the State Attorney General. Tape the calls if you can put the phone on speaker and run the tape recorder, tell them "this call is being monitored for quality assurance". Take none of their nonsense.
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