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Is a Surviving Spouse Liable for Medical Bills?

Many families face the death of a loved one after a lingering illness. A common question that arises in such a situation is whether a surviving spouse is liable for medical bills.

The fact is that in the vast majority of cases, the surviving spouse bears no responsibility for the medical debts of her deceased spouse.


Spouse Liable for Medical Bills



A health care provider can make a claim against an estate to recoup at least part of the medical debt. Most wills contain a clause directing the executor to pay the expenses incurred during the deceased’s last illness.



A claim has the potential of reducing the amount of money that will go from an estate to a spouse. This rarely occurs. The vast majority of property automatically goes to the surviving spouse due to joint ownership, bypassing the estate.



In order to ensure that you are not liable for medical bills for a deceased spouse, never co-sign as being a responsible party for these expenses when services are rendered.


Time Frame

Health care and medical providers have a specified period for bringing a claim for bills against an estate. In most states, these claims must be filed within 120 days of the commencement of the estate case in court.



If a health care provider threatens you with a lawsuit for unpaid medical bills incurred by your deceased spouse, make sure that you respond and deny responsibility. Consider hiring an attorney.


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