Home & Garden

Canceling card can affect score

Q. If I cancel one of my credit cards, will it affect my credit score?

It depends on how long you've had the card. If you've only had it for a short period of time, and you have other pieces of credit that have been open and active for much longer, then no, it shouldn't affect it too much.

But if you carry a balance on a card and close the account before you've paid it off, or if you've had the card for 10 or 20 years, closing it will dramatically affect your credit score.

Dad's debt

Q. My dad died in March and has credit card debt. He has no real estate or vehicles. He was married, and lived with his wife in Illinois. We do not live there. Who is responsible for the debt? They acquired most of it when they were together.

My condolences on your loss.

When someone dies, their assets and debts fall into their estate. It's the job of the executor of the estate to tally up all of the assets (including ownership in real estate, cars, boats, personal property, brokerage and retirement accounts, etc.) and gather together all of the debts (mortgages, loans, credit card debts, etc.). The assets of the estate are used to pay off any debts that were still owed.

If your father had credit card debt at the time of his death and was single when he died, and in addition had no assets, his debts would effectively die with him. The creditors would be notified that the borrower had passed away without any assets. While they might try to get someone else to pay those debts (like his children), you most likely wouldn't owe anything on them. (If you had benefitted from the debts in some way, you might have to pay something.)

But since your father was married, if he and his wife incurred these debts together, then she would be responsible for paying them off now that he has died. The question is whether she was a co-signer to these debts or simply an authorized user of the accounts. If she was a co-signer to the credit cards, then she would be primarily responsible for paying them off. If she was simply an authorized user, it's possible that she would not be liable. She should speak to an estate attorney to go over your dad's affairs and figure out whether she has liability for those credit card debts.

If you have other questions about these issues, or about any responsibility you may have for them, you should also consider consulting with an estate attorney.

Leaky condo roof

Q. My sister-in-law lives in a condo and pays $150 a month maintenance fee. Her roof is leaking and she has reported it to the office. This has been ongoing for several months. What are her options? I say she should stop paying her monthly rent and put the money into escrow until the repair is made. She reported it in writing, so she has a record of her complaint.

Whoa! The last thing your sister-in-law should do is stop paying her monthly assessments. If she does that, she will have late fees and other charges added to what she owes.

But she's smart to have made her complaint in writing. She now has a written record of the complaint. The first thing she must determine is whether her association is responsible for roof leaks or whether she is.

If she knows that the roof is the association's responsibility, her next letter to the association should indicate whether the leak has worsened and if other problems are occurring. If the leak is causing other damage or, worse, mold is starting to grow, the cost to make repairs to the building will grow exponentially.

The question she should be asking is why isn't the management company being more responsive. The leak could pose legal risks to the association. If she determines that the association is in the process of hiring a company to make repairs, she might have to wait until bids come in and the work gets done. If the association has done nothing, she will have to do more to get the association's attention to the problem.

She should be raising the alarm with the condo board, and making a complete pest of herself (in the nicest way possible, of course) with the management company until she gets a date to inspect and repair the problem.

She should point out to the association that repairing the leak sooner rather than later will avoid additional expenses as the damage gets worse, including structural problems as water damages the roof and its other components and, worse, mold starts to grow.

If no one takes action, she should consult with a real estate attorney who can advise her of her legal options.

It depends on how the condo declaration, rules and regulations are written, but the condo building is likely responsible for fixing the exterior of the building. It may even be responsible for repairing everything up to or including the drywall in her unit. Wherever their financial responsibility stops, your sister-in-law will have to pick up the tab.