My mother suffered a stroke back in January, and since then, it's come to light that several financial issues had been neglected prior to her stroke (mortgage/loan, phone bills, medical bills, etc.). My father is doing the best he can to manage the logistics, and I live out of state but am trying to help from afar. It looks likely that they will have to declare bankruptcy, and as I help them navigate this path, what type of financial assistance programs or management programs are available to the elderly in this position?

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MJ, few more thoughts...

Can you consolidate some of the services, such as having just one land line phone instead of perhaps a land line and cell phones or smart phones?

I'm assuming your parents have Medicare coverage? Review the bills to determine if any should have been covered by Medicare, but weren't (every so often I have to go through this b/c of improper billing, or inadequate staff attention).

Do they have any secondary medical coverage, such as a Medigap plan? If so, you'll probably need to contact that secondary payer.

If you do need to speak directly with medical payment plan reps, you'll need authority, which can be done through a DPOA or, in my case, conference calls with my father on the line with me.

I'm not knowledgeable enough about Medicaid to suggest it be explored; but others here have more knowledge of it and may suggest it as a means to provide additional coverage (and address their financial situation) in the future.

I also remember that years ago there was help through some utilities, something like a one time free monthly service.

Also, contact the utilities and ask about any senior coverage. We were both seniors and are granted a no shut-off policy b/c of that.

I have a vague recollection that Salvation Army might have helped with some utility payments. Consumers Energy has a THAW plan which helps low income people with their gas bills.

Most of this is a piecemeal approach though. You might call the United Way hotline, 211, to see if there are any more consolidated methods/sources.
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Have they tried a consumer credit counseling service. Here is link to find one in your area. They work with families in all types of family financial stress.
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I think in the field of bankruptcy, you're not likely to find many, if any, pro bono attorneys. There might be some legal bankruptcy clinics associated with local law schools that could offer suggestions, but the actual filing of a bankruptcy petition is complex and requires someone knowledgable and skilled in that specific practice area.

You could start off by getting some basic information on whether or not your mother's situation meets the criteria for a bankruptcy by meeting with attorneys at senior clinics. In our area, most senior centers have a "meet the lawyer" session weekly or biweekly. You'll get nominal information, probably not representation w/o paying for it, but you might be able to determine if bankruptcy is a realistic and/or cost effective option, and solution.

Alternately, and this is what I would do, is contact the lender and ask about a "workout", or restructuring, or payment plan to correct the arrears. Attempting workouts would be my first choice, for a few reasons:

One, it avoids the higher personal and monetary expense of going through bankruptcy, or foreclosure, as well as all the costs associated with it.

Two, it shows that the family is supporting your mother, addressing the situation, and trying to find an amicable solution.

Be aware though that "restructuring" might be a better choice. During one of the real estate downturns in the early 1970s, "workouts" sometimes had a negative connotation.

I don't really know of any management programs unless your parents are willing to transfer their financial control to someone outside the family, and I wouldn't recommend that.

If either your state or the state in which she lives have state elder law agencies, contact them. Elder Law of Michigan has given me some very good advice, and it's free to income qualified Michigan residents.

I think as you walk this path with your mother, it would be a good idea to assess everything financial and make a comprehensive plan, as you're trying to do now. I suspect you may find other issues as you move through this stage, so identifying them (as you're doing) will be beneficial in finding solutions.

Good luck!
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Are you working with a bankruptcy lawyer on their behalf?

Have you contacted their local Area Agency on Aging, which can point you to both resources for their care and care managers, if that's what you are considering?

Do they have wills, POA and Advanced Directives in place?

Is the issue that their cognitive skills are fading and they no longer remembered to pay bills? Are they able to sell their current residence to pay off the mortgage and downsize into something they can afford on their actual income?

More information will get you better answers.
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Bumping up.
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