When someone dies and leaves behind medical bills, is the spouse responsible for payment?

My cousin’s husband of 4 years just passed away suddenly. He had no insurance of any kind and owned absolutely nothing; she owns the home they lived in together. Now she’s receiving medical bills in excess of 100k. Is she responsible to pay this debt?

Asked on April 19, 2017 under Estate Planning, Virginia


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

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

In VA, a spouse is not normally responsible for the other spouse's individual debt unless they expressly agree to be. However, state law follows the common law "doctrine of necessaries", which makes a spouse liable for necessary living expenses like food, shelter, and medical care (including emergency treatment). At this point, she should consult directly with a local attorney as they can best advise her further.

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