There is no doubt that aging parents bring on a whole new meaning of stress for many “children.” But imagine finding out that your elderly parent is having money issues and is in debt……and you had no idea!
From time to time an elderly person and his or her son or daughter will meet with me at Halcomb Singler because mom or dad is having financial issues and has incurred some pretty significant debt. I always feel for the adult child that is concerned that his or her parent isn’t able to manage his or her own finances anymore, but is also mindful of not being overly-involved or making the parent feel bad about their financial position. There is no doubt that this is a tough spot. The fact is that many elderly parents don’t want to burden their children with the reality that they don’t have enough money to make ends meet and are using credit over a period of years to bridge the gap. It is not uncommon for the adult child to remain in the dark about the debt until the situation has gotten out of control.
From time to time I have represented a senior citizen in debt settlement negotiations or Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, quite often after learning that the senior’s only income is social security, that they do not own a home, and that they have no savings these measures may be unnecessary. In Indiana our laws afford seniors certain protections, including the fact that neither social security nor pension income can be garnished by a credit card company. In addition, if the senior doesn’t own a home and really only owns minimal personal property there is little to do because that senior is what we call “judgment proof.”
The term judgment proof does not mean that the senior can’t be sued nor does it mean that no one can take a judgment against the senior. It simply means that the senior is not collectible because they don’t own anything above and beyond the Indiana exemptions of $9,350.00 in personal property or have any funds that didn’t come from social security or a pension. When a person is judgement proof and elderly there is often no reason to put them through the stress of a bankruptcy. However, in some circumstances the elderly person would prefer to file bankruptcy so that they stop getting collection calls and do not have to worry about pending lawsuits. This decision can be made with the assistance of a bankruptcy attorney.
For the adult child these money issues that their parent is facing may prompt a conversation with the parent about ways the child can help. Perhaps the elderly parent is no longer able to remember to pay bills or just doesn’t want to deal with finances anymore. It may be time to discuss whether the parent would like to sign a general durable power of attorney so that the adult child can pay bills and manage the finances. In some situations, if the elderly parent does not have the mental capacity to sign a general durable power of attorney it may be necessary to petition a court for guardianship. This decision can be a difficult one and should be discussed with an attorney who specializes in elder law/guardianships/probate law.
As you can see, when adult children are faced with the financial issues of their elderly parents there are many different issues to think about. At Halcomb Singler, LLP, our attorneys collaborate together to determine the best potential path for the adult child and the elderly parent who is dealing with financial issues. If you live in Indianapolis, Fishers, Zionsville, Carmel, Noblesville, Westfield, Fishers or any other place in central Indiana and this blog sounds with your current family situation we can help. Please do not hesitate to contact our office at 317-575-8222 for an appointment or click here.
Halcomb Singler, LLP, is a debt relief agency. It helps people file for bankruptcy under the bankruptcy code. No attorney-client relationship with the firm of Halcomb Singler, LLP, is created through this blog. Also, please note that Erika Singler is an attorney licensed in Indiana and does not seek to practice law in any jurisdiction in which they are not properly authorized to do so. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and should not be relied upon for the circumstances of any individual(s) or businesses.