My Mother Has Debt and Dementia. I’m Her Caregiver. Can I File Bankruptcy for Her? – Sue

“Dear Lewis,

I have been caring for my mother for over ten years now and we have gone through many changes in the last two years.

First off, Mom put $50,000 down on a house ten years ago for her and my husband and myself to live in. She then sold it to us, eventually gifting the equity to me, her disabled daughter (two years ago) so that she could live in an assisted living facility and be eligible for Medicare (Medicaid?), when the last of her money ran out. During the same period of time that she was in assisted living, my marriage ended and my ex let the home go into foreclosure so we lost it all.

I moved in with roommates in Vancouver WA and Mom then moved back in with me. Over the last 2 years we have endured 4 moves, roommates not paying their rent, an eviction and subsequent judgement for over $5000 on that rental.

Mom had a couple of $1000 credit cards and a personal loan of around $7000 that had all been used for living expenses, moving expenses, etc. She decided that she wanted to purchase a motor home for me to live in so that when she’s gone she knows I’ll never be homeless. It was too old to be financed so we just put in on her personal line of credit, which currently shows about a $15,000 balance which we struggle to make the $418 monthly payments on but are finally at the point of not being able to make them any longer if we want to keep our health/renter/auto insurance and be able to pay our monthly living expenses.

I do live in the motor home right now, beside the house where Mom rents a room from a close friend. Mom gets SS disability and a private pension and I just get SS disability.

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We are considering having Mom file for bankruptcy, as we just cannot get on top of everything with the cost of living, bad roommates in the past, medical expenses, etc.

As her caretaker, I don’t take a salary per se, we have a joint bank account and since I do have a POA, mainly for when her dementia progresses eventually, I just wonder how her filing bankruptcy would affect me and would I lose the RV, as it’s in both our names. She doesn’t own a vehicle but I do, it was about the only thing I walked away from my marriage with.

Thanks for any light you can shed on our dilemma.


Dear Sue,

Unfortunately, some of these questions are not easy for me to answer. You would need to see a bankruptcy attorney in your state to determine whether assets, bank accounts, and the motor home are exempt from creditors. Each state has different exemptions to cover real and personal property.

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My next cause for concern is that you are trying to file bankruptcy for your mother. It doesn’t work that way. Your mother needs to file bankruptcy. And the attorney possibly representing her would need to determine if she is of sound mind to be able to file the bankruptcy for herself. The reason I bring this up is that you mentioned dementia.

Powers of attorney are a very tricky proposition in bankruptcy. A general POA cannot be used in almost all cases.

You need to seek a bankruptcy attorney in your area for a consultation for your mother.

Good luck to both of you,

My name is Lewis Roberts and I’m an attorney licensed in Florida and Georgia. My practice focus is consumer bankruptcy, real estate issues/closings, and mortgages. I also have Florida real estate broker and mortgage broker licenses. I am a proud member of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA), National Association of Consumer Attorneys (NACA), and a graduate of Max Gardner’s Bankruptcy Boot Camp. I enjoy helping people with decisions that impact their financial well-being.

Legal Disclaimer: This is for educational purposes only. It is not to be relied upon as legal advice. It also does not create an attorney-client relationship. No such relationship is formed with attorney without a written agreement.

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