How Do I Settle My Mother's Debt?
Prior to making a decision to file bankruptcy, each individual should first attempt to contact his or her creditors and determine whether it is possible to obtain their cooperation in working out a different payment schedule. Most people would be surprised to learn that creditors often are willing to make reasonable modifications to assist the debtor in repayment. Communication and honesty are the key words here. In exploring this option, the creditor should be honest and forthright with the creditor regarding one's financial situation. If your mother has no assets or income, she may be judgment proof, meaning unable to collect payment from. Bankruptcy filing may be unproductive when a person is judgment proof. The automatic stay is one of the most valuable functions of a bankruptcy proceeding for the debtor seeking relief from creditors. The automatic stay immediately stops any lawsuit filed against you and virtually all actions against your property by a creditor, collection agency or government entity and provides an injunction against the continuance of any action by any creditor against the debtor or the debtor's property. After filing for bankruptcy, the automatic stay will prevent creditors from calling and harassing the debtor in any way. In fact, should a creditor continue to attempt to contact the debtor during the automatic stay, that creditor could be held liable for damages.
I suggest attempting to settle the debt before they obtain a court judgment. Hospitals often have credit counselors available who can work with you on reducing the bill or working out a payment plan. Once a judgment is obtained, the creditor will likely be unwilling to negotiate a settlement and may place liens on property, such as bank accounts, or garnish wages. In some cases, a debtor may be able to negotiate a settlement with the creditor, although this is more difficult once a suit has been filed. In some cases, the creditor may settle for a lesser amount if the debtor is insolvent, since a promise to pay something is better than collecting nothing. These types of agreements are called an accord and satisfaction. If it is possible, a debtor should get a release included in such an agreement so that the creditor may not pursue the full balance of the debt claimed.
You have probably heard of debt relief companies. There are also some companies, even credit card companies, that will work out a compromise settlement or reduced monthly payment. Family and friends are also sometimes options. There is really no good answer to your problem, a problem that many people face. Thus options include, but are not limited to, bankruptcy, debt relief company, compromise you do yourself, friends, family, loans. I suggest you resolve the charges before a lawsuit is filed to collect the money owed, which may further damage your credit history.
Another option to examine is Consumer Credit Counseling Service. CCC is a nationwide nonprofit organization that attempts to work with both the debtor and his or her creditors to devise a more manageable repayment plan. This service very often results in revised payment plans which are acceptable to both the debtor and the creditor, thereby eliminating the need to file bankruptcy.
If you need help negotiating with your creditors, consider contacting a nonprofit debt counseling organization. You can find a list of counseling agencies by location at the website of the U.S. Trustee, www.usdoj.gov/ust (select "Credit Counseling and Debtor Education.") The federal government has authorized the agencies on this list to provide counseling to debtors considering bankruptcy. However, don't pay anyone to "fix" your credit.
The following link allows you to search by area for financial counselors recomended by Dave Ramsey:
Please read the tips from the Better Business Bureau on selecting a credit counselor :
The following organization is a referral from the Better Business Bureau:
A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you are first contacted, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed. Section 809(a) of the Fair debt Collection Practices Act requires a collector, within 5 days of the first communication, to provide the consumer a written notice (if not aleady provided in that communication) containing
(1) the amount of the debt and
(2) the name of the creditor, along with a statement that he will
(3) assume the debt's validity unless the consumer disputes it within 30 days,
(4) send a verification or copy of the judgment if the consumer timely disputes the debt and
(5) identify the original creditor upon written request.
If the consumer disputes the debt or requests identification of the original creditor in writing, the collector must cease collection efforts until he verifies the debt and mails a response. If a debt collector violates the law, you can write a letter concerning the activity to the nearest office of the Federal Trade Commission. You can file a federal or state lawsuit against the debt collector for violation of the law, although there is usually a 1-year "statute of limitations." That means you have to file the lawsuit within 1 year of the violation to recover the actual damages that you've suffered. You can also recover up to a $1,000 in an individual lawsuit or $5,000 in a class-action lawsuit for each violation, plus attorney fees and costs.
If there is inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report:
-Contact both the credit reporting agency (CRA) and the company that provided the information to the credit reporting agency.
-Tell the CRA in writing what information you believe is inaccurate.
Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act, the information provider is required to investigate and report the results to the CRA. If the information is found to be incorrect, it must notify all nationwide CRAs to correct your file. If the investigation does not solve your dispute, ask that your statement concerning the dispute be included in your file. A notice of your dispute must be included anytime the CRA reports the negative item.
The following is from the Fair debt Collections Practices Act:
§ 809. Validation of debts [15 USC 1692g]
(a) Within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt a debt collector shall, unless the following information is contained in the initial communication or the consumer has paid the debt send the consumer a written notice containing --
(1) the amount of the debt
(2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed;
(3) a statement that unless the consumer, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector;
(4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against the consumer and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector; and
(5) a statement that, upon the consumer's written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
(b) If the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period described in subsection (a) that the debt or any portion thereof, is disputed, or that the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector shall cease collection of the debt or any disputed portion thereof, until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt or any copy of a judgment, or the name and address of the original creditor, and a copy of such verification or judgment, or name and address of the original creditor, is mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.