No. of Recommendations: 2
I haven't been a member of the Fool for more than five years now, but I'm back because I knew that the people here would more than likely be an excellent resource for the nightmare my family is facing.

My father died two weeks ago this Sunday. He had no life insurance, but he did have a pension income from working for a northern California sheriff's department for 18 years. He would have been 65 this past weekend; I believe he was about to begin drawing Social Security, but hadn't yet actually gotten the ball rolling on that.

Upon beginning to clean out my father's office of years of papers and clutter, she listened to the messages that had accrued for several months on the voice mail on my father's personal business phone line. To her surprise, several of the calls were from collection agencies asking him to contact them about credit card bills that had gone unpaid. From what my mother can tell, he had a Discover card and a Citibank card that he had run up total debts amounting to five figures on, without ever telling her, and which had apparently gone neglected over the past few months as he was too sick to leave his bed, much less worry about paying credit card bills.

She spoke to someone at the collection agency, and they have asked her to enter into a payment plan to settle these debts. Fortunately, although she verbally agreed over the phone to do so, I learned of this in time to inform her that she should sign absolutely nothing until we get some more information about what these credit cards were used for, when the accounts were opened, etc. She is going to contact the credit card companies and make inquiries about the accounts. We believe that he may have used them to pay medical bills that were accrued during his treatment, but we don't know for usre as yet. I'm personally not ruling out the possibility of identity theft, for no other real reason than that I can't fathom my father doing something like this.

Since this is in California, which is a community property state, I understand that my mother will most likely be on the hook for some or all of these debts, providing that they were in fact accrued by my father. What I'm looking for is some sage advice from the community on how to help my mother handle this. She's a complete wreck from losing my father, and as you can imagine, finding out that she may be responsible for a five-figure debt that she had no idea existed was a terrible shock to her.

Thanks in advance for any advice anyone is willing to give.
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