What to do with mom's credit card debt? - AgingCare.com

What to do with mom's credit card debt?

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My mother's lung cancer spread to her brain this spring, and after battling for several months, we have called in hospice and expect her to pass within days, maybe weeks.

One thing we have been struggling with throughout the past few months has been her credit card debt. She has upwards of 16k in credit card debt between regular cards and department store cards, and we have been making the minimim monthly payments while she is ill. My father is still alive and in good health, and we understand that if any of the cards are in both of their names, he is responsible for that debt.

Our confusion is about the cards that are only in her name. Does he assume the debt after she passes? We have considered bankrupty because she also has around 30k in medical bills between this recent reoccurence and her original lung cancer, and credit is not really a concern at this point.

I'm really looking for advice about what to do specifically with the credit cards that are only in her name. Should we stop covering the monthly minimums to show that we are no longer able to (my sister has burned through her savings, and she has run out)? Any advice? Thanks in advance. These are the last things we want to be thinking about when her time is so limited, but I also want to make sure we handle this in the best way possible to avoid headaches down the road. Thanks again.

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This was similar to what happened with my parents. Dad passed from cancer in 2010 and had credit cards in his name only. Then there were some cards in both of their names. He had not been working before he passed. Mom was working but within a month of his passing, she'd had a heart attack and then a stroke and within 3 months had lost her job and had only SS as income.

Anything that was solely in Dad's name we let go - no payments were made and while each of us kids were contacted by collection agencies, we all said we didn't know anything about the bill, whatever it was. after about 2 months the calls stopped. For a while we tried paying Mom's credit card bills but she had so little income and they had no savings at all that it was impossible. When I moved down to take care of Mom and move her in with us, I researched bankruptcy for her and also talked to a Credit Counseling Center. She had about $15K in debt, about half of that was Dad's funeral costs. Since the house was foreclosed and she came to live with me, she started to have some money for paying off debt but still not that much.

In Florida, bankruptcy costs money and requires attending a class and she wasn't coherent enough to go to a class by this point. The credit counselor said any plan they came up with would still be more than Mom could afford. I just let everything go because SS income cannot be garnished for debt repayment. In the end, the collection agencies ended up offering "settlements" that were about 85% less than the original amount owed and Mom was able to pay these. The funeral home stopped sending legal notices so I assume that debt was waived or something.

In our case there was no estate or inheritance or probate since my parents had no assets. They had a car they were making payments on but we just asked the car dealer to repossess it. The hardest part about all of it for me was the stress of not knowing what the collection agencies would do and worry they would come after me since she was living in my home. But they didn't and I don't think they can legally anyway.

There were also medical bills for both Mom and Dad because Mom had applied for financial aid at the hospital when Dad was admitted so she took on that debt. After Mom lost her job, we had to fill out paperwork at the hospital and they waived all that debt, too.

It is hard to not pay debt since we understand how irresponsible that is. Frankly, my parents lived their whole life that way and I decided that I won't pay their debts for them. None of my siblings can afford that and I can't either.
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This is a complicated question. Generally, if your mother was the sole name on the count, your father would not be responsible for her debt. However, there are special considerations. If your parents live in a community property state, anything they bought and any debt they accrued during the marriage would be considered community property. In this case your father could be responsible for the debt. Check to see if they live in a community property state.

Another consideration is your mother's estate, which may be co-owned by your father. Anything belonging solely to your mother would be subject to being attached by creditors during probate. I am not sure about things that are co-owned. That may vary among the states. I hope someone will have a better idea than me.

If your mother dies with no money and all assets are in your father's name and they don't live in a community property state, he should not be responsible for repaying her private debt.
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