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Posted July 23, 2008

Ask An Expert

Finances: Dealing with Elderly Credit Card Debt

Q. Without our knowledge, my mother in-law (age 85) has co-signed a credit card for her brother (age 75) who has run up more than $30,000 in charges. My wife has a full power of attorney for her mother. What should we do now? And how do we minimize future damages?

Jim S., Palmer, Alaska.

A. These are the dangers of being a co-signer on a credit card – at any age. 

The first thing to do is to cancel the card outright. Right away, of course. Then, you really need to speak with a debt-workout specialist on the charges to-date, but you also might be able to get the company to take less and a full dollar amount on the balance that your mother-in-law’s brother charged.

This is a difficult situation, but local professionals, including an elder law attorney regarding the power of attorney, are important to contact right away.

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