When your elderly parent needs extensive medical care, do you have to keep paying their credit card bills?

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What do I do with my elder parents credit card debts? Do you pay their credit card bills? My father just passed away and my mother has been in the hospital for 4 months. I am not yet her guardian and am waiting on that as I am very timid of the whole process and my lawyer advised me to wait till I was ready. Since I normally paid my mothers bills online with her money I have just kept up that process so everything is being paid. She will need nursing home care and won't have the money for that and probably won't qualify for medicaid for awhile either. Her income is slightly higher than the medicaid threshold so I have zero clue how that will all work as I sure as heck am not paying for it. So I guess my question is, when your elder parent was needing extensive medical care were you keeping up with their CC bills too? I feel like just paying the essentials like house, utilities, insurance are important but no where have a I read what you all did with their debts? When you become a guardian do you have to keep up payments on the CC debts too?

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My dad lived with me until he went into a nursing home. He was on Medicaid. I called his creditors to let them know that he was very, very ill and in a nursing home and that he had no more money. I told them my dad was on hospice. They thanked me for the information and I thought that would be that.

Once those cards went delinquent my phone blew up. l had called his creditors from my cell phone so that's the number they had as a contact number. I was patient and told each of them again the situation but the calls became incessant. I finally told each and every one of them not to call me ever again. The calls slowed down but didn't stop. Once my dad died I called them all again to tell them he was dead and they all asked about my dad's "estate". I had to laugh at that. A couple of the creditors asked for a copy of the death certificate which I never sent and that was the end of it.

Don't take on your parents debts. Their creditors will try to get you to but don't ever do it. You're not legally obligated to and if you have to have any interaction with their creditors make sure you tell them to never call you because once they have your phone number that's a new contact number for them. Your dad has died and they can't get to your mom so they'll try to contact you repeatedly. Block their numbers from your phone.
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I am so sorry for your loss. It is overwhelming, but you need to Talk with the lawyer NOW. You need to come up with a plan that takes into account current bills, whether your father's estate has gone through probate, whether Medical and Durable Power of Attorneys exist for your mother, and what bills are due/what for/which credit cards may be needed to keep paying for stuff like prescriptions and co-pays. If you simply quit paying the credit cards and your mother has bills that are automatically paid on them, you run the risk of an insurance bill not being paid - maybe she has long-term care insurance, or prescription plan default, or...yikes.
If mother simply defaults on credit card debt, the companies may issue her a 1099-C, cancellation of debt. That is viewed as income by the IRS, has to be reported and may have taxes due on it, which makes this not a Do-It-Yourself project. It can affect Medicaid application, participation in income-based programs like meals on wheels, etc. Your lawyer should be one that is well-versed in elder law and MEDICAID. Don't just assume that they are - ask. If your father was a veteran, your mother may qualify for programs through the VA, again you won't know unless you ask. There are hospital social workers that can help you begin the process of deciding what the appropriate placement will be (not coming home to live with YOU), and how to access programs to help you make it happen. Take care of your own oxygen first in the process - otherwise you will never be able to help anyone else. Breathe.
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I would RUN to an attorney who specializes in elder care & Medicaid if that is inevitable. Not sure what sort of attorney encourages to wait until you're comfortable, but this is a matter you need to get in front of with some solid guidance and education.
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I realize that you may not be comfortable, but you need to act now as you will eventually need to take care of this. I stopped paying my aunts credit card bills as I just could not pay her assisted living costs as well as her credit cards. I would stop paying everything that you do not have to pay.....you may need to sell her house to keep up with the bills. It is not good to wait as you may have a lot of trouble if you wait longer.
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FYI on debts - it really does not matter if YOU called these places regarding debt. Once a credit company writes off debt, it gets sold to debt collectors, sometimes multiple times it is sold off. THEY have ways to find ANYONE who was associated with the original owner of that debt (look up skip tracing - I had someone contact me about a former DIL). Look up John Oliver's youtube video on debt buyers - he is mainly a comedian, HOWEVER he covers topics like this, giving you an overview and THIS one is enlightening. Ignoring debt, even if it is not your own, can be devastating and costly! Please, if you find some of his words or "methods" offensive, overlook this and TAKE IN WHAT HE IS SAYING!
Elder Care Attorney should be able to help with this. I recommend you continue to pay, at least the minimum, to keep these vultures off your doorstep. Setting up a PROPER trust with an APPROPRIATE trustee should NOT be seen as the wrong thing to do. IF there are assets and IF mom or dad applies for Medicaid, ALL assets are considered and Medicaid can suck those dry. There should be more concern about this than appointing an untrustworthy trustee, which goes against the very name "trustee". Dontask says "trust means you're gifting your money and assets to someone you a point as a trustee" - that is NOT what a trust is/or should be. We set up a trust for our mother - it is STILL her assests and it is for HER benefit while she is living. We three children are the "trustees" and we use it to pay for HER. We would be the beneficiaries of anything left after her demise, HOWEVER if the trustee is chosen wisely, no money should be taken or spent on the trustee's behalf UNLESS that person can prove the money was originally spent on behalf of the principal.
So, beware just ignoring debt thinking it will go away... have this handled with the help of an Elder Care attorney. Certainly YOU are not obligated to pay anyone else's debt, so NO, do not use your own assets to pay off anyone's debt!
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When Mom went into a nursing home, her social security and pension went to the nursing home (she was also receiving Medicaid). She had signed a quit-claim deed years earlier, and her house was in me and my brother's name. So Mom had no money and owned nothing...... I sent a certified letter to the credit card company advising of this. Mom was the person who had the credit card and it was Mom's money that ran out. She had nothing. The well had run dry. The. End. I was on her checking account to sign her checks, which I did for years, and often paid the credit card company far more than the minimum payment. But it wasn't my money, or my obligation. .... I heard nothing more from the credit card company, but they gave the information to some bill collecting agencies. Occasionally I will get a call on my landline answering machine requesting "the person who handles Mrs._____'s estate" contact them . They probably learned of mom's death from social security...nonetheless, there is no "estate" and there is no money, therefore they will have to write off the remaining debt. *I* am certainly not involved in this, other than receiving an occasional phone call..........I do realize that senior citizens who have the audacity to go into nursing homes and die don't HAVE the money to pay off their credit cards. This raises the interest rates and is spread out to all credit card holders. Yes, that is unfair, but if there is no more money, you can't get blood from a rock. And no fair 'blaming the senior citizens' for defaulting. There are millions and millions of fine 'Muricans who max out several credit cards in their working years, trying to keep up with the Joneses, live in McMansions they can't afford, going on cruises and vacations all on credit, buying new cars every year on credit, and these people also default on their payments, go broke, file for bankruptcy. I daresay they are as responsible if not more so for the high interest on credit cards, not seniors with Alzheimers and dementia who have to go into LT care. The children of the seniors are not responsible for the debts.
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Oh OK Thank you Barb for the Miller Trust info. My husband said something about that, but I wasn't sure what that was. Just did a quick search. Just was able to exhale for a minute. This whole thing has been overwhelming and a nightmare.
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It seems to me these are issues your lawyer should be advising you about. You said you have a lawyer, but if he isn't an elder care attorney, thats what you need to get asap. And yes, there's a big difference between general practice and elder care attorney.
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I'm very disappointed in all the "don't pay" comments. Your parent(s) 'borrowed' money with the agreement to repay the debt. They have a legal and moral obligation to hold up their end of the bargain. Yes, credit card companies are big businesses, but if you stiff them, that gets passed on to the rest of us in higher interest rates and fees. Mind boggling that people think bill collectors are the enemy, when they loaned you money with the full expectation you'd hold up your end of the bargain.
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@grege64

the question is the legality of who owes. the child does not owe for the parents. if the parent is still alive and has the funds to repay - then yes, continue paying off the debts.

But if the companies are dunning the child of the parent because the parent cannot pay - this is not legal.

You actually admit this in your answer: "Your parent(s) 'borrowed' money with the agreement to repay the debt. They have a legal and moral obligation to hold up their end of the bargain."

THEY have a legal and moral obligation. THEY. Not YOU.

YOU have a choice.  Not an obligation.
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