Caregivers Need Help When Debt Collectors Call
Debtors aged 65+ are the fastest growing group of bankruptcy filers, up 6.5% since 2006 and 184% since 1991 (Source: Institute for Financial Literacy). What can a caregiver do to stop the harassing calls of a debt collector to their parent or loved one? ELA’s Managing Attorney, Lois B, Kelly answers the question:
“You will be able to stop the calls when the debtor sends a letter to the creditor telling them not to call any more, only send information by mail. But this does not make the debt go away. Fortunately, if you are the caregiver, you are not liable for this debt unless it is your debt also.”
What happens next? The debtor will then get a letter from an attorney asking if they wish to dispute the debt. The caregiver can request records of the debt if they are not sure what the debt is for. If the debtor has the funds, the lawsuit can be answered by paying the debt. But what if your parent or loved one exists on Social Security, SSI or SSA income? Lois continues, “In these cases, it is generally best to let the lawsuit go to default because the collector cannot garnish Social Security income.”
If the case goes into default, the creditor can execute a writ to empty the bank account except for two months of Social Security payments (if Social Security is directly deposited into that account). If the loved one owns a house then after default judgment an attorney can put a lien on the house for the judgment plus interest, which will continue to accumulate until paid off or the house is sold.
Dealing with collection is an emotional and complex process that no caregiver should have to undergo alone. Elder Law & Advocacy’s Caregiver Legal Support Program is available to help.
Have a question about dealing with debt as a caregiver? Ask in the comment section below.