Question: I am full time caregiver for my my mother who is 90 and bedridden. We are living on social security with only a few thousand dollars in savings and she has over $15,000 in credit card debt. She owns the house and I need to stay there when she passes (I'm unemployed - executor & heir. Will the credit card companies be able to force me to sell the house to pay them off? Will they be able to get the few thousand dollars left in her savings account?
The following is provided for general information only. To find out how the law applies to a specific situation, contact an attorney directly. A creditor may be able to garnish and take property if it goes to court and gets a judgment, though it cannot go to court as long as a debtor makes satisfactory payments. Who gets ownership of a house at the death of the owner is generally determined by whether the owner of the property has an estate planning package. If the person has no will or trust (this person is called the decedent), the house will transfer under intestate succession laws. According to Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 14-2103, generally, if a person dies without a will, the property goes to the decedent's spouse. If there is no spouse, then the property goes to the decedent's descendants (children). If the decedent has a mortgage on the house, the person taking the home takes subject to all claims of creditors (ARS 14-3901). Generally, a creditor cannot take one's home to satisfy a debt. This is called Arizona's homestead exemption, and applies to a person's home. Read ARS 33-1101 for a better understanding of homestead exemptions in Arizona. The law only protects a maximum of $150,000 of equity, so if the person's equity in a home is valued at more than $150,000 a creditor may force the sale of the property only if the proceeds from the sale would cover the homestead amount plus all liens/debts owed. There is an issue brief on Arizona’s Homestead Exemption, written by the Arizona State Senate, that addresses this issue. Also, Arizona Revised Statutes Title 14 explain the general provisions and definitions of probate law and creditors' rights against an estate. Go to this website and you can use the "Search" function to search for creditor or any other term you are interested in.
April 12, 2012