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DIY Estate Planning Mistake #16: How to Help an Elderly Parent Manage Credit Card Account the Right Way

Posted by Nina Whitehurst | Jul 13, 2020 | 1 Comment

As with so many things when it comes to assisting elderly parents, there is a "right" way to do this and a "wrong" way.  I put "wrong" in quotes because the method I consider to be "wrong" is not necessarily illegal; it's just less than optimal.

Just like it is a bad idea to add yourself (you being the adult child, friend or other helper) to the elder's bank accounts as a co-owner, it is a bad idea to add yourself to the elder's credit card accounts as an "authorized user".  That method "works", but there's a downside, which is the elder's credit card account will now appear on YOUR credit report.  If they have a high balance compared to the available credit, or just a high balance in general, or a poor payment history, these things could negatively affect YOUR credit score.

The right way to do this (just as with bank accounts) is to obtain a power of attorney from the elder appointing you as his or her attorney in fact.  Send the power of attorney to the credit card company so that they will recognize you as as the authorized agent of the user, and you can set up online access, but you won't be personally liable for paying the credit card, and it should not appear on your credit report.  If it does appear on your credit report, you will have the grounds and the documetation to object to the credit reporting agencies and get it removed from your credit report.


About the Author

Nina Whitehurst

Attorney at Law Nina has been practicing law for over 30 years in the areas of estate planning, real estate and business law She is currently licensed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Tennessee. Her Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating is the highest achievable: 5 stars in peer...


Chris Reply

Posted Aug 23, 2022 at 02:20:07

Thanks so much for this educative and informative content. I have learned a lot from it and believe it will benefit others too. Thanks for sharing.

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