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Woman wants tips on tapping into Social Security of her cheating ex

DEAR BRUCE: I was married to my husband for 22 years. After he decided to have a girlfriend for five years during our marriage, I divorced him. I want to know how I can go about collecting a portion of his Social Security. I did not remarry. I could really use the extra money monthly to help pay my very high bills. — J.P., via email

DEAR J.P.: Unfortunately, marriages don't seem to last anymore. If you and your ex-husband were married more than 10 years, you can claim against his Social Security. You will first have to put in a claim under your name. The best way to go about doing this is to ask at your local Social Security office. Make an appointment and ask a professional how you should go about doing it.

DEAR BRUCE: My dad recently passed away without a will. The only asset he owned was a mobile home that needs a ton of repairs. The mobile home should probably be condemned. His only debt was an outstanding credit card balance of $30,000. Will the house go into probate because he left no will? What should I do? — H.K., via email

DEAR H.K.: It is so sad that so many people pass away without a will. I can't stress enough how important it is to have a will prepared before your demise.

The first thing I would do is apply to the probate court so you can be named the administrator of the estate. The credit-card balances will have to be paid off, but because the mobile home isn't worth more than the balances on the credit cards, the court will have to decide how the money will be spread. The first thing to do in this case is to file with the probate court. Explain to them the situation.

DEAR BRUCE: A few years ago I messed up my credit by not paying my credit-card bills on time, and sometimes not at all. I was having a tough time getting by financially, and I didn't realize how it would affect my future.

All day long I receive phone calls from different collection agencies harassing me about my credit card balances. My question is, what can I do to stop these phone calls? — Jim, via email

DEAR JIM: There is no secret here. They are calling because you still owe the credit card companies money. They gave you the merchandise on an agreement that you would pay the minimum monthly balance and you didn't. The original credit card company wrote off the debt as a loss and sold the debt to other collection agencies.

You can ask the collection agency that is trying to recover debt if you can make smaller payments. Tell them the situation and that you can afford to pay only a smaller amount. Most of the time they will work with you, but the fact is you are still obligated to pay this debt.

Send your questions to: Smart Money, P.O. Box 2095, Elfers, FL 34680. Email to bruce@brucewilliams.com. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.