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As some of you know, my step-father passed away back in May. So Mom's alone. Obviously she hasn't been thinking too clearly since his passing.

I have been attempting to help my mother long distance (I'm in MO, she's in NJ.) She just came down to MO to visit...and brought with her tons of paperwork.

I almost passed out!

Here is what we have:

$5,000 in CC Debt - none with less than 17.99%
$1,210 owed to the funeral home - 23% interest
$700 in Gas Cards - 23% interest
$3,000 to a buildin contractor
$700 in medical bills

The Vets Admin says my stepdad was overpaid and wants $2,700 back.
The State of NJ wants $3,000 back.

I can't say I am lost, just overwhelmed. It took me four hours tonight just to sort through all the bills. (Good Lord, they have 3 Cap One cards!)

Where do I start? So far the state and VA aren't garnishing wages, but I am afraid that that will happen if we don't do something soon. Mom has NO savings, NO money for retirement, NO assets and (to top it off) is a public school teacher.

One of her CC's is already at the collection agency. The others have minimum balances that would give George Soros a stroke. She is approximately 2 months behing on everything but her car lease -(Don't even ask!) -and her general monthlies.

I was wondering where exactly do I start? I know about the CC's, but how do I handle the government agencies?

Wondering if I was learning the wrong way to use credit by example when I was growin up
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Are the debts in your step dad's name, your mother's name or joint? If in your stepdad's name alone then your mother should have no problems with those. Did your step dad leave an estate? Doesn't sound like he did. Don't think anyone can go after your mother for something that wasn't paid to her. I think the best they can do is go after any estate your step dad left and if he left nothing I think they are a bit out of luck. Below is a link to a column in one of the Philadelphia papers. The guy's columns deal with things like this all the time and at the bottom is how to get in touch with him. He can probably give you advice on this or direct you where to go.

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I know I might be in the minority, but I think your mom might want to file for chapter 7. Lord, she is in bad shape (bill wise that is...).

How old is she, and many more years is she planning on working?
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I was wondering where exactly do I start? I know about the CC's, but how do I handle the government agencies?

First of all, I am so sorry about your mom's predicament! That's got to be an incredible shock.

Second, I have owed money to the IRS before and they were able to work out a payment plan with me. I would try to contact your mom's creditors and ask for a payment plan as well. I am sure they want to work with your mom.

Third, does your mom own her own home? Is it feasible to take out a HE loan for $10K to get this all paid off? Or would you rather leave her home out of it?

Good luck!

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Two questions are important.
{1} Did you stepfather leave an estate?
{2} Is any of the debt in his name only?
Ok, 3 questions. I assume a home is involved with a contractor being owed. Whose name is the home in?
If you care to give us that information, maybe the board can be of some help.
My condolences to you. We went through this years ago. My wife was an only child living in the deep south and my late MIL was in a Chicago suburb and was overwhelmed with the situation. This long distance stuff is difficult.
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There are lots of folks here better equipped than I am to give advice about this situation. I just want to offer my sympathy and a couple of little reminders just in case.

I am dealing with a somewhat similar situation, helping my recently (2 yrs ago) widowed mother in law. She doesn't have debts, but she has other things making her financial situation particularly desperate and complicated, so I feel your pain. Not sure if that helps.

A few things didn't occur to me until recently, which I wish I'd thought of sooner. Not sure if they apply to your situation or not.

1. Social Security. You can apply when you are 61 or 62 -- it's a certain number of months after one of those birthdays.
2. State health coverage. California has benefits based on income and asset levels. Not sure if that's an issue for you b/c your mom is employed.
3. Possible "survivor benefits" from late husband's employer. We are still in the process of trying collect on these; our situation is particularly complicated and we have had to hire a lawyer to duke it out.

Of course the advice from others about whose name things are in, etc, is very important too. Best of luck to you. I know how stressful it can be helping an older relative with these things.
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Out of all these debts, the one that can cause the most potential damage in my opinion is the building contractor. A bulding contractor who gets stiffed can attach a lein directly to a home.

Read up on this because I don't know for sure and I don't know how it translates state to state.

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I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I live in NJ and, assuming your mom's elderly, would recommend visiting this site. It's for the Dept. of Health & Senior Services:

The general site is: Fish around; you could find some advocacy group that can help you.

I am curious to know if the debt is in both parents' names or your father's only. My own father passed in 1991. Both parents were quite young (dad was 47 at the time) and neither of them were financial wizards. I am confident that they were carrying quite a bit of debt and somehow my mother wiggled out of some or all of it. I don't know the details and would recommend that you get a NJ attorney. There may be some loopholes your mother can jump through. Ask an advocacy group for recommendations. Perhaps Tony (I know, NY) might know someone?

It goes without saying, contact the Bureau of Veteran's affairs. There may be a miscommunication. I am sure you've got it on your list, but contact the VA, the tax dept. and the creditors. Maybe you can work something out with them. Out of curiosity (and please don't answer if it's too presumptuous of me to ask), what town does your mother live in? Some are near smaller cities with great support groups, outreach programs, public transportation, and the like.

Good luck!
"Why haven't I heard of this 'The Leader?'"
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