Credit card woes where to look for help???

My Grandfather died December 2, 2008
He had two credit cards, one being a Sears charge card. Probably around a $1,500.00 balance.

They were both notified of Grandpa’s passing on the same day. CC #1, Is sending some paperwork to fill out saying there is no estate.
Sears on the other hand is calling/ harrassing, saying she is responsible for paying.

The account isn’t even due, but has been placed in collections. Not even due yet!

Myself, I advised talking to the people who handled my bankruptcy that finalized last summer.
I think he is trustworthy to give decent advise and help my Grandmother out.

So here are the questions.

The lawyer/ attorney I told her to talk to handles bankruptcy and that is it I believe. Will they be able to help her. (They are licensed in the state she lives in.)

If not, what kind of legal help should she seek.
I am assuming criminal law would be of limited help.

I understand, but have no real confirmation that she is listed as an authorized user on both cards. What is the probability she is liable and will have to file Chapter 7.

There is no “estate” no large savings, no house, only the stuff in the apartment and the car. It is paid for. She is on retirement income, and plans to move somewhere cheaper, as she is unable to meet the rent and have money left over for small things like food. The only reason she is still there now is a friend of theirs has paid her rent through February 09.

Any reasonable advise would be appreciated, You are not my (or Grandmother’s) lawyer.

For those who want to give me links to legal stuff to read, She lives in Omaha Neb.

Thank you very much.

My sympathies on your Grandfather’s passing.

I cannot give you specific legal advice, but I do know that historically Sears has been very aggressive in its handling of consumer debt. In fact, about ten years ago they ended up in trouble with the Feds for illegally “reaffirming” debts (search for “Sears reaffirmation” if you want details – they ended up paying out over $100 million in settlements). Given the economic climate we are now in, I suspect they will be similarly aggressive. That is not meant to intimidate you – quite the opposite. Being forewarned of their heavy-handed tactics, you (and your Grandmother) will hopefully not be taken advantage of. Pay what you (or the estate) are obligated to pay, but don’t get bullied into paying extra.

I am not any sort of lawyer.

I would immediately send Sears a registered letter, copied to the FTC, and tell them not to contact Grandma by ANY means other than by mail either to her, or through her lawyer, if she has one. Say, specifically, that she does not want to be contacted by phone. You or she might have the lawyer draw it up, if he’ll be reasonable about the charges.

Upon a little Googling, it seems that reaffirmation is a method that creditors use to get those who’ve gone through bankruptcy to agree to pay their particular debt, and not let it be discharged with the rest of the debts. For example, if Grandpa bought a TV from Sears, and Grandma wants to keep it, she can reaffirm her debt to Sears and keep making payments. Has Grandma filed for bankruptcy? Is she intending to? Just what did Grandpa purchase from Sears that hasn’t been paid for yet?

Does Grandma currently have a lawyer?

My apologies if I gave the impression that reaffirmation was directly relevant to this situation. I was merely giving an example of how Sears has been very aggressive in dealing with consumer debt issues in the past. If they retain these policies, they may be similarly over-aggressive in your situation, although in a different way.

Great source of credit knowledge.

I am so sorry about your grandfather. Your grandmother needs to consult a Probate lawyer in her state. Some states hold surviving spouses liable for the deceased spouse’s debts for necessaries, like medical bills. His debt with Sears was contractual so you need to review the contract he signed. There is probably a clause that says the CC bills come due and payable in full upon his death. Your grandmother needs to find out if she was named on the credit cards as a user or payor. If she was not, Sears needs to petition the estate for payment like any other unsecured debtor.

Was the car solely in his name? If so, it could be at risk. So could jewelry, coin collections, and his prized baseball signed by Joe Namath. Debts get paid before heirs. If he had a will, it needs to be probated. If he did not, the laws of intestacy apply. Depending on the laws of Nebraska, an inventory of his possessions may have to be submitted to probate court. Bottom line: consult a probate lawyer.

Caveat: IAAL, but I am not your lawyer. I don’t know you or your grandmother and y’all don’t know me, and I don’t represent anybody at the moment. I am not licensed to practice in Nebraska and I am not familiar with, and do not intend to look up, Nebraska law. This is not legal advice, just words written by God knows who on a message board.

Good luck.

IMO, and I do not know your grandma’s financial situation, fifteen hundred dollars is WAY too little to go through bankruptcy for. Again, consult a probate lawyer - they know all about this stuff.

Thank you all, I will point her towards a Probate-lawyer if she is reluctant to contact the fellow I know of. I will also mention that it probably won’t be a bad idea to have someone send an official letter to muzzle Sears a bit. Her being in the 80 yo range, she does not need the aggravation. Hell, it isn’t like Gramps was a dead-beat. He had the card for many years I believe. The way Sears is acting does not give a good impression, unless they like being thought of as vultures.

Sears is pretty heavy-handed, and they don’t care that they come off that way. My dad was late on a payment ONCE in 40 years, due to the bill being misplaced or something, and they sent him a really, really shitty letter.

I worked there for around 5 years, and in their legal department for a while. They’re a bunch of hard-asses. Seriously…they suck.

Additional anecdotal information on Sears: My husband also died in December, leaving me with a number of credit cards with balances on them. When I got bills, I paid them. Not a one was ever late and most were paid off in full within a month. Sears, and only Sears, had the gall to turn me over to a collection agency even though the bill was paid in full. Apparently that is their standard operating procedure even if the account is never delinquent, even if it has always been handled in a timely fashion. Card holder dies, send it to the collection agency. It took several phone calls to the collection agency and Sears to get things taken care of.

Another one that has been difficult to resolve is the BP gasoline credit card. In both cases, it was because the card was only in my husband’s name and so “for security reasons” they would not provide me with information.

It is exhausting. But it can be done without an attorney if you’re willing to call and call and call and call…

Regarding in-coming calls, caller ID is essential after a death in the family. I had to discipline myself not to pick up any calls where I did not recognize the individual calling.