Am I responsible for the debts of the person for whom I have durable power of attorney ?

1 answer | Last updated: Feb 19, 2011
Auntie's friend asked...

I have a durable power of attorney for my aunt, who I have recently moved to an assisted living facility. She has some very sizeable credit card debts and doesn't have the money to repay them. Should I try to contact the creditors or just get an elder affairs attorney and file bankruptcy? Can I be held responsible in any way?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

A little bit of relieving news in your rather complicated picture: Being named the agent in your aunt's durable power of attorney will not make you personally responsible for her debts.

While I am the last attorney to recommend running to an attorney for help -- there are very often less expensive and more helpful routes -- it does seem wise to contact an experienced elder law attorney or financial planner.

Such a soul should be able to explain the possible options after a comparative look at your aunt's bills and finances, and may be able to help with some types of financial arrangements less drastic than bankruptcy or the possibility of needing to move your aunt at once to a less costly or more-subsidized facility.