How best to handle a summons regarding a credit card debt?

UPDATED: Feb 12, 2012

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How best to handle a summons regarding a credit card debt?

My mother-in-law was served a summons on a credit card debt of $4987. She is 88 years old and has no assets (other than her furniture). Her only income is derived from social security (and it’s not much). Should I send this information in and answer to the attorney or do something else?

Asked on February 12, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Your mother-in-law may be, from what you write, effectively judgment proof: that is, her only income is exempt is garnishment, and from you write, she was few assets which a creditor could reach. If they had not sued her yet, you could do what you suggest; but because they have sued her, a more formal response is required.

Your mother in law must answer the summons. She can answer it herself, pro se, or she can hire an attorney to answer it for her. You may not answer it on her behalf, since you are a non-lawyer--for  you to answer a summons for her would be for you to practice law without a license, which is not allowed. While she could simply ignore the summons, let them get a default judgment against her, and then rely on them not being able to collect, a better course is to submit an answer which either denies outright anything which can be denied, admits only the harmless basics (like her name), and neither confirms nor denies the other elements of the complaint.  That will keep the case rolling forward, which will provide an opportunity to speak with opposing counsel and try to work something out; and indeed, given how long cases can sometimes take to come to fruitition, it's not impossible that your mother-in-law may pass away at some  point before trial, effectively mooting the issue (the creditor could still try to sue her estate, but at that point, there is no impact on her personally).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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