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David Kennett
David Kennett, Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 27689
Experience:  25 years practicing attorney
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my dad passed away in december from cancer. it all happened

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my dad passed away in december from cancer. it all happened so fast that we did not have time to do a power of attorney. he is now left with over 350K in medical bills. I need to know if these bills are going to affect my moms credit. Also, i am working with a nonprofit org that is trying to get some of these bills reduced/written off. in order to start the process, they can only speak through the power of attorney. is my mom the automatic POA? if so, i need to change this so that i can become the POA so that she doesnt get harrassed by bill collectors as she is having a hard enough time as it is dealing with my dads death. finally, i just want to be clear about financial responsibility after becoming POA. how will becoming POA affect me? the financial burden will not fall on me for any reason correct?
thank you for your time!
Dear JACUSTOMER - I am very sorry for your loss. You cannot have a POA for a deceased person so no one is going to have the power to act on behalf of your father unless an estate is opened and an executor or personal representative is appointed. If he had a will you can use that to open an estate and whoever is named as executor in the will can be appointed by the court and then have the authority to deal with the creditors. Since Texas is community property state the liability for all debts is joint however the estate would be initially liable for the debts and then if there is not sufficient assets to pay the debts from the estate the creditors would likely seek payment from your mother. Obviously all of this can be worked on with the creditors once there is someone with the authority to act on behalf of the estate. I'm not certain of the overall financial situation of your parents but if you cannot get some type of reasonable settlement with all these creditors your Mom may have to look into protection in bankruptcy. This is very common when there are huge medical bills that can never get paid from personal funds. It is too early to deal with that possibility since you first need to open an estate and see what claims are filed by the creditors. The estate will have to be opened in the probate court in the county where your father resided at the time of death. Most courts have the necessary forms available however I have to tell you that it can be a complicated process and you may need the assistance of counsel. I have provided below the Texas website for court forms and information but we are not permitted to represent clients or prepare legal documents from this website. Until you open an estate there's no going to be any way to deal with the creditors or represent your father.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you so much for the fast response! Ok, so just to be clear, when the creditors say they need to speak to the POA, would this be a POA for my mother since the burden falls on her? I am trying my best to keep her out of all of this, so would becoming her POA be the solution? They did not have any assets when Dad passed away. They home they lived in was paid off but Dad gave my sister and I that house about a year ago and changed the title into our name. Is there any way they can go after our home? Other than that, Mom has no assets. Would it be best for her to file for bankrupcy if these medical bills can not be written off/reduced? My Dad was the sole provider and had been for the past 8 years or so. She is the caretaker of my 1 year old and my sisters 2 babies and has been living back and forth with us since Dad passed. we basically provide for her and she refuses to take full payment for her babysitting services since we take care of her financially and emotionally. Not sure what they can go after if she doesnt have anything under her name? How long does it take for medical bills to "disapear" from her credit?

thanks again for your advice!!

If your parents had no assets at the time of your father's death then no one needs to talk to the creditors and you have no need to open an estate since there's nothing anyone can get if they file a claim or a suit. Having a POA for your Mom would allow you to talk on her behalf but not on anything with respect to your father. You have no duty to do anything at this point. If the house was transfered a year before your Dad's death then you should have no problems with that so long as Medicaid isn't involved. Medicaid has a five year lookback for any transfers of assets. If the creditors sue your Mom all they can get is a judgment but if she has no property they have nothing from which to collect. Since you have no personal liability for any of this I would suggest that you simply not talk to the creditors or make any deals. If you sign something you could make yourself liable and there's no reason for you to get involved. If you want to get a POA from your Mom that's fine but I see no reason to make any deals with the creditors for this large of debt.