Is it okay to only pay home expenses and let credit card debt slide while mom is in hospice care?

1 answer | Last updated: Apr 01, 2009
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mom is in a home hospice program and has credit card debt. The companies keep calling and I have tried to explain that she cannot pay right now. I am not able to help, since I left my work to care for her. Is it ok to let the debts go, and pay only the bills to keep our house heated, etc. Thank you.

Expert Answers

Steve Weisman hosts the nationally syndicated radio show A Touch of Grey, heard on more than 50 stations, including WABC in New York City and KRLA in Los Angeles. He is a practicing lawyer specializing in estate planning and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He's a public speaker and commentator who has appeared on many radio and television shows throughout the country, and he's the legal editor of Talkers magazine, the preeminent trade publication of talk radio. His latest book is The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

Credit card companies have not been doing well in regard to public opinion lately and your situation certainly does nothing to enhance their reputation.  I suggest that you contact the credit card company and ask to speak to a supervisor.  Explain your mother's situation and that she is not in a position to pay the credit card balance at this time.  Hopefully, they will agree to freeze the amount of her debt and wait until payment is able to be made.  If they are not willing to wait, you are not in a bad position.  You are not personally responsible for your mother's credit card debt unless her credit card account is a joint account of you and your mother with joint liability.  Otherwise you are not responsible for paying her credit card debt.  The card should not be used anymore, but it is not your responsibility to pay your mother's credit card debt.  It is unlikely that they will  bring a legal action to collect the debt.  If they did so, it is hard to imagine a court that would not provide your mother with a reasonable period in which to pay the debt.  In any event, the debt is not your responsibility.