What should I do if my mom passed and I am receiving her medical bills?

My mom passed away in August. It is November and I am still receiving bills for her medical expenses. She had Medicare and a pay out of pocket supplemental insurance. We shared a joint checking and savings account $1029 in it. She received a low monthly income from social security. I am her only son. Her only possessions were her 17 year old mini van and personal belongings. She did have a Will. Everything went to me and my wife. She lived in an apartment. I am still

receiving bills from her hospital and medical care providers. I have sent multiple death certificates to all bill collectors. The lawyer who drew up her Will told me that I was not responsible for her medical bills. Now they are coming to my personal address under her name. Am I responsible for anything? Was I supposed to sell her van to pay these off? I guarantee that I couldn’t have received enough in the sale to pay off everything. I did use some of the checking/savings account to pay for some funeral costs and the final bills for her electric, cable and insurance. Please tell me I am not responsible for anything. My wife and I cannot afford to pay off her medical

debt.

Asked on November 16, 2018 under Estate Planning, Michigan

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, a child does not inherit their deceased parent's debt unless they specifically assumed any debt or if they co-signed on a loan with their late parent. Although, while a child typically bears no legal responsibility for such debts, there is an exception. A child may be held responsible for a parent's debt under the doctrine of "filial responsibility". Many states with filial responsibility laws, require adult children to care for their parents financially. That having been said, such laws are only enforced regarding reimbursement to Medicaid for nursing home expenses. 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

You are NOT personally responsible for her bills, unless you personally guaranteed or cosigned any. A child is not responsible for a parent's bills, or an heir/beneficiary responsible for the bills of the person they inherit from. You can either ignore the bills or just explain to the creditors that she passed away (and send them a copy of her death certificate)--since it sounds like you did that, you have discharged your resposibility. If they try to tell you that you are responsible (some unethical creditors do), just state that you never agreed to pay those bills or guaranteed them so you are not.


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