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In California who is responsible for credit card debts after death of a widowed elderly person with no liquid assets left?

Mission Viejo, CA |

My elderly mother passed away last week and has depleted her life savings for caregiver expenses over the last 2 years . She has about $ 2 , 000 left in all accounts . She has one Visa account with an $ 11 , 000 balance ( due to UN - reimbursed medical equipment , drug expenses ) and another Master card account with a $ 9 , 000 balance ( also due to medical expenses ) . She had a living trust and my sister is the Trustee . She owned her own home ( title was in the Trust ) but had a reverse mortgage on it ( no cash out , it just extinguished the forward mtg ) and there is little equity in it . My brother is going to inherit it and refinance the loan into a forward mortgage in his own name . Who , if anyone , is responsible for the 2 credit card debts ? The estate does not have the $ to pay them .

Attorney Answers 3


When the estate has no assets, typically, the creditors are out of luck. They will write off the debt, get a tax break, and pass on the costs to the rest of us.

I am very sorry for your loss. I would suggest that you explain the situation to the creditors and hopefully, they will simply give up.

James Frederick

***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state. I hope you our answer helpful!

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Will the creditors sue the Trustee in hopes of squeezing something out? My brother is inheriting the home b/c he gave my mother the down pmt for the home and if there is any equity left (very little after reverse mtg is pd off), he is entitled to it.

James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick


It is possible, but depending on the amount involved, may be unlikely. I had an estate where there was about $5k owed on a credit card. The only asset was a house and the beneficiaries were intent on keeping it. After several months of phone calls, the creditor wrote off the debt.


You need to bring the documentation of the debts and your Mother's assets plus the trust to a probate/estate planning attorney to determine what the trust states regarding payment of debts and how much equity is left in the house. I agree with my colleague that you need to notify creditors of your Mother's death but excess equity in the house may have to be applied against the debt. Additionally, you need to notify the California Dept of Health Care Svcs to see if they have a medical claim against the assets including home equity. You do not have an obligation to pay your Mother's debts but her estate does and her trust may. If you or a family member takes assets without paying the creditors they may have a claim against you for what you took. Your brother should proceed very carefully in taking possession of the house without considering the equity versus debts. The other issue is whether the house is titled in the trust by a deed or there is a pour over will or it is in the trust by a reference in the trust. Depending on how it is titled it may require a court order to convey title to your brother. I don't want to be negative but, as you state, your mother passed with legal debts.

Nothing contained in the information on this web site is to be considered as the rendering of legal advice for specific cases and readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel. This web site is intended for educational purposes only. Michael R. Weinstein, is licensed to practice only before the courts of the State of California, and is admitted to practice before the United States District Court for the Central District and the United States Cou rt of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit. No information contained herein is to be considered applicable to legal matters in domestic or foreign jurisdictions outside of the State of California.

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James P. Frederick

James P. Frederick


I agree with you on the equity issue. I was responding based on Asker's assertion that there is little equity there. Anything there could be subject to the creditor claims, if the creditors are intent on pursuing them.


If it was a revocable trust of a now deceased settlor, the trust also has obligations to settle the debts. The trustee has to make sure that creditorsare notified in much the same manner as under will administration. Many creditors only file against estates and ont file on trusts but they have that right. I recommend having your sister work through this correctly especially if savings are in the trust. As well as the house.

This is for general information only. Nothing in this information should be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship nor shall any of this information be construed as providing legal advice. Laws change over time and differ from state to state. These answers are based on California Law.Applicability of the legal principles discussed may differ substantially in individual situations. You should not act upon the information presented herein without consulting an attorney about your particular situation. No attorney-client relationship is established.

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