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Legal Issues, Large and Small

Search and Care’s “Money Matters” is a free service that helps seniors better manage their finances with the support of our retired financial experts (“Field Financial Navigators”).

Perhaps you, an older family member, or friend are experiencing difficulties organizing bills, writing checks, or creating a budget to make ends meet. These are just a few of the issues our Field Financial Navigators help older people with. Below, we touch upon some legal challenges regarding finances that our Navigators have helped our older neighbors address.

An anxiety-provoking situation for many older people is receiving collection notices from creditors—whether from private agencies or governmental entities. One way our Navigators assist with the avalanche of letters and calls from collection agencies is by sending “cease and desist” letters.  Cease and desist letters will not eliminate a debt, but they will stop creditors from contacting individuals through phone calls, paper or email, etc.

A recent example: Ms. H, 82-years-old, faced an unpaid IRS tax and other debts resulting from the after-effects of a stroke. “After my stroke, the mail just piled up on my kitchen table. I didn’t even know what was there.” In helping Ms. H organize her documents and go through unopened mail, one of our Navigators found these debts. The Navigator made Ms. H aware of them,  providing reassurance they would assist her.

First, the Navigator sent cease and desist letters to collection agencies. Secondly, the Navigator contacted a number of legal organizations regarding her IRS tax debt, and was able to set up a meeting with Ms. H and an attorney from The Legal Aid Society’s ( Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic. The attorney was eventually able to negotiate a compromise with the IRS that reduced her tax debt from $1,800 to $25. The Navigator continues to help Ms. H reduce debt to other creditors, regularly organizes her documents, and created a monthly budget for her. “It’s such a relief,” Ms. H expressed to her Navigator. “Now, I’m able to focus more on my recovery.”

For more complex legal matters, Navigators seek assistance from organizations like Elderly Project at Volunteers of Legal Service (, and the New York Legal Assistance Group (  In summary, our Navigators help financially at-risk older people address legal matters that arise regarding finances—through advocacy and with the assistance of outside legal agencies.

If you, an older family member, or a friend are facing issues like these, please contact Elizabeth Parlakian by email at, or by phone at (212) 289-5300. We can try to help!

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