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John Griffin Watts
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John Watts’s Answers

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  • Jus learned that I was put on a relatives checking account without my knowledge. Am I responsible for their debt when they die?

    I just found out that I had been added to a relatives checking accounts some time ago without my consent or knowledge and I live in another state. Can I be held financially responsible for their debts now with their demise? I have learned there is...

    John’s Answer

    Without knowing more details it is impossible to give a yes or no answer but I will say this:

    I have never seen someone added to a checking account who somehow -- simply through ownership of the checking account -- ever owed money for debts of the other person.

    Has your relative passed away?

    Why are you the sole owner?

    Have any creditors contacted you?

    Again I don't see how you could possibly owe any money based upon what you described.

    Sorry for the uncertainty you have been dealing with -- hopefully you can get some more details ASAP.

    Best wishes!

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • I am being sued tomorrow in small claims in Alabama. The suing party has no documentation of any kind regarding the disputed

    charges to their claim. Neither them or their lawyer will respond as to what proof they have to their case so I can prepare to defend my self. I also will need to hire an attorney to handle my counter suit of breaking and entering etc. If I loose ...

    John’s Answer

    In small claims court the other side has no obligation to give you proof before trial. That's part of the purpose of small claims -- it is easy and cheap and fast.

    I'm not sure if your trial is tomorrow or happened today but hopefully this will help you in some way.

    The company suing must prove it owns the debt and you owe the debt.

    If this is Capital One suing, maybe not so hard.

    But if a debt buyer such as LVNV, Midland Funding, or Portfolio Recovery, then they really struggle with proving ownership.

    As was mentioned in earlier answer, if you lose you have time to appeal. Normally that is 14 days and you start the case over in Circuit Court.

    Feel free to contact my office at 205-879-2447. I will mention this last thing -- you don't need to be thinking about a counterclaim unless the company suing you has already violated the law. If this is a debt collector, it normally is a bad idea to do a counterclaim. If you have a legitimate claim, file it in federal court.

    I'll put a few links below that may help you.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Legal options on Credit report dispute? What should I do when my landlord would not fix the error on my credit report.

    I lost the case with my former landlord and paid my balance to their accounting department. However, when I checked my credit report, i found out that they report the portion of rent and filing fee that not reward in the court to my report. I then...

    John’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    The key to credit reports is they must be accurate.

    So if your landlord says you owe $3,000 and the judgment against you is only $2,000, and you paid it, then your credit report should show this on the account or what is called the "tradeline."

    I'm a little unclear how it is reporting now. If you paid it in full, then it should show this. If you settled for less than the full balance, then it can show that.

    Sounds like it is not reporting correctly.

    The best way to fix this is to send a dispute, certified mail, to Experian (and landlord who is "furnishing" the false information) and include all the documentation you have. (Also check Equifax and Trans Union as they may have the same).

    Either Experian will fix it or they will not.

    If they fix it, great.

    If they don't, and it is wrong, look at suing Experian and the landlord under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

    Contact an FCRA lawyer in your state to help you do the disputes.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Can a minor be sued for a debt?

    Can a 16 year old be sued for any debt they incurred. The debt was a statutory obligation, (not a contract) however as the child is 16, can they lawfully impose this?

    John’s Answer

    I'm not sure what you mean by statutory obligation on a debt (not a contract). Here are a few general rules for you to consider and you are welcome to contact my office if this is about someone in Alabama.

    A minor who enters a contract can "void" the contract and get out of it.

    You mention this is not a contract and you ask about being sued.

    In Alabama, normally a minor cannot be sued directly. The parents are sued as the "parents" or "next friend" of the minor.

    Who is threatening to sue?

    What is the debt or "statutory obligation" about?

    Sorry I can't give you a more detailed answer as I'm not sure what this obligation is for the 16 year old.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama
    205-879-2447

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  • My mom is on Medicaid& is in a LTC facility-I transferred her life ins &want to change it back so she doesn't lose her benefits

    My mom has alzheimers. I was afraid that my sister would hv mom sign the life ins to her and then cash it in and take her money leaving me to pay for the funeral. The transfer was to protect her assets but the transfer does not state "entrust". Ho...

    John’s Answer

    Good answers by the other lawyers -- you have to fix the "gift" and do so the right way under Virginia law. I suggest getting with a Virginia elder law attorney asap to figure out the best way to handle this.

    There are some things that taking a DIY (do it yourself) approach makes sense. Elder law is one area where that normally ends badly.

    I'm glad you are investigating your options and encourage you to finish it by getting with a lawyer that can advise you.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • POA. How does it help in the case of A Investigation of elder & financial.

    6 yrs ago I meet an elderly woman an started helping an caring for her it became a lot an she talked to me about me to become her caregiver something I have never done before an will not do again a lot of work.So we got a Lawyer to draft all paper...

    John’s Answer

    There is nothing illegal about a person who holds a power of attorney being compensated for work performed. But when you have an elderly person -- especially a non family member -- and then you are made power of attorney and named in the will, it raises red flags.

    You definitely need to get to a lawyer to find out what your options are at this point.

    Financial abuse of the elderly is a "hot topic" and you need to take it very seriously (and it sounds like you are).

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • 4+ years into forclosure? Now I get a letter stating the bank sold my loan to another lender?

    2008-2009 I was forced out of my home due to economic misfortunes. I moved my family in with my mother and the bank and I started discussing foreclosure. I was fine with it and told them I would give them the house. After many letters of different...

    John’s Answer

    The previous answers are good -- I'll just add a few points for you to consider.

    As Ron pointed out, always check your credit reports. If there is false information reporting, this can give you tremendous leverage if the bank won't fix your credit reports. The banks don't like being sued under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

    As far as the foreclosure not happening, this does happen sometimes. If you want to keep the house -- not sure from your question how you feel now -- then a new lender may be someone to approach about modifying your loan and not foreclosing.

    Bottom line is you are in a tight spot and you need to carefully evaluate your options, including bankruptcy to get rid of the debt. You can't force a lender to foreclose but there are options.

    Get with a lawyer as soon as you can to find out your options.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Can sallie mae give me summons papers to appear in court for a $3,000 defaulted private student loan?

    I received summons papers to appear in court for a Sallie Mae Student Loan that hasn't been paid. Sallie Mae Representatives always called me when or if my loan was in default and I always paid $50 to keep it in forbearance (which I thought was ri...

    John’s Answer

    Wilson's answer is very good. The only thing I'll add is Sallie Mae has to prove its case against you. This is a private student loan so there is a statue of limitations. Often we see private student loan lawsuits are filed outside the statute of limitations.

    But if you default -- don't answer -- then Sallie Mae will win even if you don't owe the debt or even if it was too late for Sallie Mae to sue on.

    Beyond the statute of limitations Sallie Mae must prove it owns the debt.

    There is not enough information in your question to know if you have any defenses to this lawsuit but, as Wilson suggested, get with a consumer lawyer in Alabama who does this type of work so you can find out your options.

    Best wishes....

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Can you tell me how the chart for penalty works regarding the $13,000 gift and medicaid in NC? Is there a formula?

    My mother did the gift to me for $13,000 for the past 5 out of seven years. Is it better to redeposit the gift or take the penalty for her room for the penalty period? The nursing home has told us the rate for private pay is $7140. Does DSS us...

    John’s Answer

    The short answer is do what the other lawyers have said -- you must get with an elder law lawyer in your area.

    There is no "quick" answer on whether you should give the money back or take the penalty or just wait before applying for Medicaid.

    What other gifts were made by your mother to anyone else or any other organization (charities, etc)?

    How much money does she have to privately pay at 7k a month?

    Do you have the money to give back to her?

    Are her assets owned outright by her or owned in an irrevocable trust?

    Point is there are lots of questions.

    Be prepared to do some work to gather all of the info and then pay for an analysis of your mother's options. Making the wrong decision can cost her and your family hundreds of thousands of dollars so it is worth figuring out a great roadmap to get from where your mother is now to where she wants to go.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • If placed in a nursing home, does this cancel lifetime estate rights to my home?

    Can the home be sold immediately if I'm still alive? If so, how long would a relative have to remove my belongings (he is also living in the house as my caretaker).

    John’s Answer

    As Wilson mentioned there are different issues involved here.

    If you go in a nursing home, you either need to pay for it privately (your own money, long term care insurance), pay for it with VA Pension (Aid and Attendance) or Alabama Medicaid.

    If you qualify for Alabama Medicaid you do not have to sell your home if you own it outright or have a life estate in it. Medicaid does NOT require you to lose your home -- it simply has the right to put a lien on your home that you own under some circumstances.

    This is a common myth -- you must sell your home before qualifying for Medicaid. The truth is your home is an "exempt" asset -- it does not count towards the amount of assets you are allowed to have when you qualify for Medicaid.

    As a general rule you can only have $2000 in assets -- but..... Your home doesn't count. Your car doesn't count. Certain other items don't count. And if you have a spouse your spouse can keep a certain amount.

    I suggest you get with an elder law attorney to find out your options and to get clear on whether you own your home outright or have a life estate in it.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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