Money & Debt Toolkit
Pro Seniors’ Legal Toolkits help low-income Ohioans handle their legal problems without a lawyer. There are Do-It-Yourself tools to create legal forms as well as Articles and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to explain the legal details. This website does not give legal advice and is not a substitute for seeing a lawyer. If you use this Legal Toolkit, let us know if it helped you and how we can improve this site by completing this Survey Form.
Owing others money can be a difficult and stressful situation. Oftentimes a debt is referred to collection agencieswho may repeatedly attempt to contact you regarding the debt. Other times you may find yourself being sued for a debt. This Legal Toolkit explains how to handle creditors and provides helpful resources for protecting your interests when you owe money to others. First, review the Articles and the FAQs for answers to specific questions. Then, to create a letter to stop harassing phone calls, you can use the Forms link to create your personalized Stop-Contacting-Me letter.
Throughout this toolkit you may see the acronym FDCPA. This stands for the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA is designed to protect debtors (people who owe money) from abusive debt collection practices by collection agencies.
After reviewing the material here, if you still have questions, call Pro Seniors Legal Helpline for Ohioans age 60 and over at 513.345.4160 or 1.800.488.6070. There you can schedule a free 30 minute phone consultation with a Helpline attorney to answer your legal questions.
Links to do-it-yourself forms can be found under the Forms heading on the sidebar of this page. Forms in this Legal Toolkit include:
- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Stop-Contacting-Me Letter
Links to helpful articles can be found on the sidebar, located on the right side of the page. Articles include Pro Seniors’ pamphlets as well as other documents to help you to understand your legal rights and options.
Frequently Asked Questions
I Owe The Debt, But Can’tPay. What Should I Do?
It is best to deal with the problem before the company (the creditor) refers the debt to a collection agency. You should call the creditor to explain your situation. Even if you cannot pay anything, your honesty may prevent further actions where the creditor knows collection efforts are futile. It is important, however, to know your rights before talking to the creditor. See more . . .
What Are My Rights As A Debtor?
You have rights under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) if a collection agency is collecting money owed to someone else, such as a credit card company. The FDCPA does not apply if the creditor is collecting its own debt. However, Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA) does apply to the creditor and contains similar prohibitions. Harassment by debt collectors is against the law, and prohibited by both the FDCPA and the CSPA. For instance, debt collectors must not: . See more . . .
If I Receive A Call From A Bill Collector, What Should I Do?
Understand that the debt collector’s sole purpose is to do whatever it takes to get you to pay on your debt. They will prey upon your emotions of guilt, remorse, fear and anxiety to convince you to pay. It is possible to negotiate with collection agencies, but paying small monthly amounts by taking money needed for rent, food and utilities is not beneficial long term. See more . . .
If I Don’t Pay Them Anything, Will They Sue Me?
If phone calls and letters do not result in payments, the creditor must decide if it wants to sue you on the debt. Some creditors will not pay the court costs and attorney fees to sue if there is no possibility of collecting on the court judgment. If you have neither income nor assets that the creditor can take, then telling the creditor that you are uncollectible may prevent it from suing. Be aware that no one can garnish your wages or bank accounts or put liens on your home without first suing you in court, winning the lawsuit and obtaining a judgment against you. See more . . .
Can The Creditor Take Some Of My Income?
Whether the creditor can take any of your income depends on the source of your income. The following income cannot be garnished by the creditor: Social Security, SSI, VA, workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, pension, railroad retirement and other public retirement benefits. Additionally, private retirement accounts such as IRAs, 401(k)s, annuity and Keogh plans are also exempt from garnishment as long as they are necessary to support you and your dependents. See more . . .
Are My Bank Accounts Safe From Garnishment?
Non-exempt funds can be garnished, but Ohio law provides that funds in your bank accounts that came from exempt income sources listed above remain exempt. For example, Social Security income that is deposited into your checking account retains its status as Social Security income and therefore cannot be garnished. It does not matter how much or how long the money has been in the account. Nor does it matter if there are other non-exempt funds in the same account. Use the first-in first-out rule to trace the source of the funds in the account. However, if you have invested your Social Security income in a certificate of deposit, it loses its Social Security status and can be garnished. See more . . .
What About My House, Car And Personal Property?
After judgment, the creditor can have the clerk of courts place a judgment lien on any real estate you own. However, your residence is exempt from a forced sale to satisfy a judgment lien for health care services or supplies. Furthermore, $145,425 of each owner’s interest in a residence is exempt from execution, as is $4,000 in the value of one car, $625 of individual household items and $13,400 in all household items. See more . . .