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What to do with an 83 year old Acid Casualty Papa?
January 19, 2006 3:21 PM   Subscribe

My friend is traveling back to the US to deal with her estranged 83 year old acid-casualty father’s deteriorating health and living situation. Can she be held legally responsible for his debts?

My 52 year old friend’s father has been divorced estranged from her family since she was 9. He’s an old California Acid casualty – early 1960s Timothy Leary, Merry Pranksters, Ashrams, the works, tripped for 30 years – and never maintained close ties to her or her brother unless it was to ask for money. Now he’s unable to walk and she is – not very happily – going to California from Europe to help arrange his care situation. Old age homes, Social security payments, Army benefits, etc. She suspects he has run up a lot of debts. Can she – as his daughter (although her Mom divorced when she was 9 and has remarried since) be held legally responsible for his debt situation?
posted by zaelic to Law & Government (13 answers total)
 
Google: Are children responsible for parent's debts?

Short answer appears to be no. If there is an estate, the bills would be paid out of it, but you must agree to a debt before you're responsible for it.
posted by jasper411 at 3:26 PM on January 19, 2006


Do I Have to Pay My Parent's Debts?

Previous AskMe thread.
posted by scody at 3:28 PM on January 19, 2006


As jasper411 has indicated, the US credit industry has not yet succeeded in reinstituting debtors prisons and the requirment that children be responsible for the debts of their parents.

However, I'm sure that some creditors and collection agencies will do their best to bully or trick your friend into assuming responsibility. She should not give them a fraction of an inch.
posted by Good Brain at 3:34 PM on January 19, 2006


I don't know why we needed all that detail that was utterly unrelated to the question.
posted by jjg at 3:35 PM on January 19, 2006


In fact, my friend, who worked as a collector for Chase would suggest taking out a large-balance credit card solely in their name and going on a bit of a shopping spree. Chase simply eats it if they don't have anything in their estate and you get to keep whatever was purchased.

This would be seem as some as wildly unethical (because, um, well, it is), but many justify that so are credit card companies.

But debt never transfers to one's children, unless, as the pieces mention, said child's name is also on the application (which some parents have done quite unscrupulously without their child's knowledge).
posted by disillusioned at 3:37 PM on January 19, 2006


But debt never transfers to one's children, unless, as the pieces mention, said child's name is also on the application (which some parents have done quite unscrupulously without their child's knowledge).

This is generally true, but it can become more of a gray area in certain circumstances where the child attempts to take control/responsibility for some of the situation while the parent is alive (as some of the googled articles indicate). For example, if the child is added to a joint checking account with the parent in order for the child to pay the parent's bills, any money that the child has placed in that account would be liable to pay back the parent's debt, even if the child didn't consent to the debt itself.
posted by scody at 3:43 PM on January 19, 2006


I liked the details more than the issue asked about...I'm a sucker for narrative, family madness, the elderly and their being tossed on the junk pile as they age...
posted by Postroad at 4:04 PM on January 19, 2006


Here's a scenario -

Say that one of your parents tells their credit card company that you are authorized to use their credit card. I don't know what the name for this is, but I know that it's somewhat of a common practice. Then say that the aforementioned parent racks up a bunch of debt on that credit card and then dies. Could you then be held responsible for said debt?
posted by Afroblanco at 4:12 PM on January 19, 2006


Afroblance, your parent can say anything they want. Until you personally agree to it (and they can prove it), you are not liable.
posted by voidcontext at 4:37 PM on January 19, 2006


Afroblanco: I'm sure collection agencies will try and tell you that you owe the money if they die or refuse to pay any bill all together.

But just because you are authorized to use the credit card doesn't mean you have accepted payments of that credit card.

I'm authorized to use my company's credit card, but I'll never have to pay off any debt if my boss decides to embezzle a bunch of money and take off to mexico or something.
posted by nickerbocker at 5:17 PM on January 19, 2006


I think the detail is there because she feels bad about the debt, and maybe has some unresolved baggage about the dad abandoning her. IANAP(I am not a Psychologist) She's not responsible for his debt, moral or otherwise, and she's a good person for being willing to cross the street, let alone an ocean, to care for him. It may end up being a good thing for her. I hope so.
posted by theora55 at 5:54 PM on January 19, 2006


One of the key things that your friend should avoid is "commingling" their funds. She can make gifts to him, if she wants, but she should avoid putting any of her money in joint accounts with him. Otherwise, she could lose it all (as mentioned above).

The best thing she could do is find a decent estate planning lawyer, and pay for a well-drafted will and end-of-life documents (healthcare power-of-attorney, living will, etc). She should especially do this if he may be losing competency, because after it's gone, he can never do this stuff again. If he is relatively competent now, she should take advantage of this window of opportunity. The end-of-life stuff is important as well, since she is out of touch with him and it will allow him to voice his desires regarding his care.

This stuff is complicated, but in our society, healthcare providers are becoming evermore cautious, and the pendulum will not be swinging back anytime soon.
posted by MrZero at 9:02 PM on January 19, 2006


I'm a sucker for narrative, family madness, the elderly and their being tossed on the junk pile as they age...

I don't think anyone tossed that dude on the junk pile - he climbed up there all by himself.
posted by hazyjane at 12:36 AM on January 20, 2006


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