Mountain Views News, Sierra Madre Edition [Pasadena] Saturday, May 13, 2017

MVNews this week:  Page A:10




Mountain Views-News Saturday, May 13, 2017 



Dear Savvy Senior,

What happens to a person’s debt after they die? My 
mother has taken on a lot of medical and credit card 
over the past few years and I’m worried that my brother 
and I will be responsible for it when she dies. What can 
you tell me?

Worried Daughter

Dear Worried,

In most cases when a person with debt dies, it’s their 
estate, not their kids, that is legally responsible. Here’s 
how it works.

 When your mom dies, her estate – which consists 
of the stuff she owns while she’s alive (home, car, cash, 
etc.) – will be responsible for paying her debts. If she 
doesn’t have enough cash to pay her debts, you’ll have 
to sell her assets and pay off her creditors with the 

 Whatever is left over is passed along to her heirs 
as dictated by the terms of her will, if she has one. If 
she doesn’t have a will, the intestacy laws of the state 
she resides in will determine how her estate will be 

 If, however, she dies broke, or there isn’t enough 
money left over to pay her “unsecured debts” – credit 
cards, medical bills, personal loans – then her estate 
is declared insolvent, and her creditors will have to eat 
the loss. 

 “Secured debts” – loans attached to an asset such 
as a house or a car – are a different story. If she has a 
mortgage or car loan when she dies, those monthly 
payments will need to be made by her estate or heirs, 
or the lender can seize the property. 

 There are, however, a couple of exceptions that 
would make you legally responsible for her debt after 
she passes away. One is if you are a joint holder on a 
credit card account that she owes on. And the other is 
if you co-signed a loan with her.

 NOTE TO SPOUSES: These same debt inheritance 
rules apply to surviving spouses too, unless you live 
in a community property state – Arizona, California, 
Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, 
Washington or Wisconsin. In these states, any debts 
that one spouse acquires after the start of a marriage 
belongs to the other spouse too. Therefore, spouses in 
community property states are usually responsible for 
their deceased spouses debts. 

Protected Assets

If your mom has any IRAs, 401(k)s, brokerage 
accounts, life insurance policies or employer-based 
pension plans, these are assets that creditors usually 
cannot get access to. That’s because these accounts 
typically have designated beneficiaries, and the 
money goes directly to those people without passing 
through the estate. 

Settling Her Estate

You also need to be aware that if your mom dies with 
debt, and she has no assets, settling her estate should 
be fairly simple. Her executor will need to send out 
letters to her creditors explaining the situation, 
including a copy of her death certificate, and that will 
probably take care of it. But, you and your brother 
may still have to deal with aggressive debt collectors 
who try to guilt you into paying.

 If your mom has some assets, but not enough 
to pay all her debts, her state’s probate court has a 
distinct list of what bills get priority. The details vary 
by state, but generally estate administrating fees, 
funeral expenses, taxes and last illness medical bills 
get paid first, followed by secured debts and lastly, 
credit card debts. 

Need Help?

If you have questions regarding your situation, you 
should consult with a consumer law attorney or 
probate attorney. Or, if you just need a question or 
two answered, call your state’s legal hotline if available 
(see, or legal services provider. 


 Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 
5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit 
Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and 
author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! …May Birthdays*

Joann Serrato-Chi, Harriett Lyle, Jean Coleman, Birgitta Gerlinger, Donna Mathieson, 
Dorothy Murphy, Linda Wochnik, Marian Woodford, Debbie Sheridan, Joanne 
Anthony, Carole Axline, Kika Downey, Shirley Hall, Annie Scalzo, Janet Ten Eyck, Jane 
Thomas, Ray Burley.

* To add your name to this distinguished list, please call the paper at 626.355.2737. 
YEAR of birth not required


ACTIVITIES: Unless listed differently, all activities are at the Hart 
Park House (Senior Center) 222 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre



Hawaiian & Polynesian Dance Class: Every Tuesday morning from 10a.m. to 
11a.m. Join instructor Barbara Dempsey as she leads you in the art of Hula. 

Bingo: Every Tuesday beginning at 1:00p.m. Cards are only $0.25 each! Everyone is welcome to join. 
May be canceled if less than five people. 

Free Blood Pressure Testing: 2nd Tuesday of the month from 11a.m. to 12p.m. No appt. is necessary. 

Brain Games: Thursdays, 10:30a.m. to 11:30a.m., improve your memory and strengthen your 
brain. Activities facilitated by Senior Volunteers.

Free Legal Consultation: Wednesdays from 10:30a.m. to Noon. Attorney Lem Makupson is 
available for legal consultation. He specializes in Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Estates, and Injury. 
Appointments are required by calling 626-355-7394. 

Senior Club: Meets every Saturday at the Hart Park House Senior Center. Brown Bag Lunch at 

Tax Assistance: Every Wednesday beginning on February 1st through April 12th from 1:00p.m. 
to 2:00p.m. - Don Brunner is available for income tax consultation. Appointments are required by 
calling 626-355-7394.

Chair Yoga: Mondays and Wednesdays from 11:00 to 11:45a.m. with Paul Hagen. 3rd Monday of each 
month, a variety of balance exercises are practiced. All ability levels are encouraged and welcomed! 

*A suggested donation of $5 at one of the classes is requested, but is not required.

Case Management: Case Management services are provided by the YWCA and provide assistance in 
a variety of areas. Appointments are required and can be scheduled by calling the Hart Park House 
Office at 626-355-7394.

Birthday Celebrations: Every 2nd Thursday of the month at the Hart Park House, share some free 
birthday cake provided by the Sierra Madre Civic Club.

Game Day: Every Thursday starting at 12:00p.m. Come join this group of Seniors in a poker game. 
Other games are offered to all. Please note time change. 

Free Strength Training Class: Every Friday from 12:45p.m. to 1:30p.m. with Lisa Brandley. This 
energetic class utilizes light weights for low impact resistance training. All class materials are provided.

Stress, Resilience, Positivity: Finding Balance - by The Kensington Sierra Madre Four Tuesdays, 
March 7 - 28th from 2:00 - 4:00p.m. Register by calling 213-821-6919 or 213-821-6908. 


Thursday, May 25th from 10:30a.m. – 11:30a.m. at the Hart Park House!

Just in time for spring! Join us in making a silk flowers planter. All supplies will be provided. Let’s get 
creative... Please call the Hart Park House, 626-355-7394, to make your reservations. 

Invite your friends and family for some arts and crafts fun and take home your planters for the season




Date: Tuesday, May 30th

Time: 9:15a.m. to 3:00p.m.

Meeting Location: Hart Park House

Cost: $15.00 (Not including Lunch)

The Bowers Museum is an art museum located in beautiful Orange County. The museum’s permanent 
collection includes more than 100,000 objects featuring notable strengths in areas of pre-Columbian 
Mesoamerica, Native American art, the art of Asia, Africa, and Oceania, and California plein-air 

 Participants will have time to explore the museum and have lunch on their own. Restaurant is open in 
the museum and fast food places are a short walk away. There will be a docent-guided tour in the afternoon 
which will feature highlights of galleries throughout , providing a great overview of the museum’s unique 
collections. Level of walking: Medium – High; please call us at the Hart Park House for reservations at 


By Monica Vaca

Acting Associate Director, FTC

 The millions of people who reported scams last year 
told us that imposters were the top fraud of the year. 
Imposters have called many of us – maybe even most 
of us, pretending to be anyone from the IRS to a family 
member in trouble, from fake tech “help” for your 
computer to a business selling things that turned out 
to be bogus. 

 Their goal? To get your money as quickly as possible.
Thanks to the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, we recently 
heard about scammers calling to ask for contributions 
to the “Legal Aid Society” and pretending to be from 
the “national legal aid/defenders office.” A quick 
search of the phone number the callers used showed 
complaints for different kinds of imposter scams. 
(Of course, scammers can make caller ID show any 
number – even the name that shows up on the display. 
So don’t rely on caller ID to help you decide if a call 
is legit.) Imposters can pretend to be anyone, but the 
twist on this imposter scam is that the scammers are 
pretending to be from well-respected community 
service organizations and appealing to your civic 

 To make sure your donation dollars are doing the 
good you want them to, learn more about giving 
wisely. If you get a dubious call, or one that pressures 
you to donate right away, tell the FTC so we can 
investigate. We rely on you – and our partners in your 
community – to tell us what you’re seeing. In fact, our 
most recent imposter scam case – against a company 
that pretended to be from a community help center, 
the government, radio stations, and companies like 
Walmart – came about because of a tip from a legal 
services group in Washington, DC. So every report, 
from everyone, makes a difference.

Mountain Views News 80 W Sierra Madre Blvd. No. 327 Sierra Madre, Ca. 91024 Office: 626.355.2737 Fax: 626.609.3285 Email: Website: