Getting incarcerated isn't easy on any level, but there are steps you can take to blunt the impact jail time has on your finances and credit. You have several options to pay your bills while you're in jail, including opening a joint bank account, granting power of attorney, asking for deferrals and getting a job while you're in jail. If you wait until you're incarcerated to deal with your bills, it's already too late for some options.
Open a Joint Bank Account
If you have a family member whom you trust, or someone else you can rely on, then you can open up a joint bank account with that person before you go to jail. This will allow someone else to pay your bills for you while you're away. This option comes with a certain amount of risk, though, because the other person listed on the account has total access to all funds in the account and can do whatever he wants with them. This arrangement can't be set up once you are already in jail, because you need to be present to open the joint account at the bank.
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Grant Power of Attorney
Another way to make sure your bills get paid is to grant a power of attorney to someone you trust. Powers of attorney can be general, limited and special. The general power could allow the person you designate to act for you in all matters. This is by no means an insignificant step, because it gives someone else the power to manage your finances and estate for you. A limited power might allow that person only to pay your bills but not, for example, to buy or sell property on your behalf. If you have a lot of different obligations and even multiple businesses, then granting a general power of attorney will give someone else complete authority to preserve your estate from unintended neglect.
Ask for Deferrals
If you won't be able to pay your bills until after you get out of jail, Bankrate suggests contacting creditors to request a deferral on payments. Explain your situation and ask them to defer payments until after you're released or to establish a payment plan that calls for a delay in payments. Although you can ask for deferrals and payment plans, there is no guarantee your creditors will work with you. You can also ask for a deferral of child support payments or alimony, but that may not be granted either.
Get a Job in Jail
If you have access to an authorized job in jail, you can work while you're incarcerated and earn money to help pay your bills. For instance, you can get a job working in the kitchen washing dishes and performing menial tasks. You can spend this money at the commissary on incidental items, leaving more money in your personal checking or savings account to pay your bills. However, not all jails provide employment opportunities, so this option depends on where you serve your time.
- Bankrate: Can't Pay Bills From Prison. What to Do?
- North Carolina Department of Correction: North Carolina Prison Inmates at Work
- Tennessee Department of Correction: Inmate Jobs
- Bankrate: Risks of Joint Bank Accounts
- Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute: Limited Power of Attorney
- Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute: Power of Attorney
- NewsItem.com: Meth Defendant Wishes to Stay in Jail, Work in Kitchen
- Brevard County Sheriff's Office: Jail Frequently Asked Questions
- King County Department of Adult & Juevenille Detention: Frequently Asked Questions
- San Deigo County Sheriff's Department: Frequently Asked Questions