Are My Social Security Benefits Safe from Creditors?

Seniors can be just as prone to racking up debt as anyone. However, the rules, laws, and guidelines for seniors with debt problems are different from those for a younger person.

If you don’t pay your debts, creditors can get legal permission to garnish your wages. Because society doesn’t want seniors to go without basic needs, lawmakers have passed laws to protect certain assets and benefits for seniors. Generally, seniors’ incomes are reduced when they retire, and it is more difficult for them to replace assets they spend or sell to pay debts. Therefore, the rules creditors play by when dealing with limited-income seniors are different by law.

In the most-common cases, Social Security income is not subject to garnishment. These cases include medical bills, credit card payments, and personal loans. A creditor can go to court and get an order to take money from your bank account. However, if your Social Security benefits are direct-deposited, the bank is required to protect that income. If you deposit a Social Security check, the bank may be required to freeze the money in the account until you can prove whether any of it came from Social Security. When a creditor tries to freeze a bank account, the bank is required to look at the last two months of transactions to determine if any income was derived from Social Security, and must let you access that amount.

Although Social Security, pensions, disability, and VA benefits are protected, there are some types of debts that can be taken from these benefits, and it would be wise to contact The Law Office of Scott C. Painter, P.C., for expert help with evaluating your situation. Advice received on the Internet or from debt-relief agencies may not be reliable.

Here are some situations of concern: Certain debt payments can be taken from your benefits, most of which are federal debts. Examples include federal taxes, federal student loans, child support, alimony, and victim restitution. Rules and amounts can vary over time, and some may be regulated by the state. This is why expert legal counsel is necessary if you feel you are being treated unfairly or illegally.

If you can’t repay your debts, don’t feel ashamed. Things happen in life that affect our incomes and expenses, especially as we age. Creditors won’t go bankrupt; they have plenty of other clients. However, don’t be frivolous with your money — you want to preserve it as much as possible and not lose it paying off debts. Seniors are rarely sued for debts because they are often considered “judgement proof.” Again, consult an expert elder law attorney for answers, guidance, and protection.

The Law Office of elder law attorney Scott C. Painter, P.C., is located in Wyomissing (outside of Reading, PA, in Berks County) and offers trusted legal services in the areas of elder law, including nursing home planning, trust and estate services, and Veterans Benefits. Scott C. Painter is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA®), and he is also a member of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA).

If you have an issue or question, we encourage you to call us. With legal matters, time is of the essence. Your first consultation with us is free! 610-378-5140

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