Is a husband liable for credit card and medical debt under their late wife’s name?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Is a husband liable for credit card and medical debt under their late wife’s name?

My father-in-law who is 60 lost his wife unexpectedly in Sept. 2018 and the hospital is demanding payment for all her medical bills. All the bills are under her name only. They have now sent these bills to collection agencies. He was not authorized under her accounts, credit cards, or any debts she had. She owed credit cards and telephone bills. Does he have to pay her credit card debt and bills? Does he have to pay the hospital/medical bills under her name? If he does not pay these, can they come after the house that is under both their names?

Should he ‘perfect title’ for his home since she is under the title of the home

as well? She is also on the loan.

He is a single father now of a minor child, whom is a child of the marriage. All

other children from wife are his children, and adults.

Asked on January 3, 2019 under Estate Planning, Oregon


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

1) He is not responsible for most of her credit card bills (but see below), but her  estate is: that is, the creditors can seek payment from her estate (the money and assets she left behind, which he stands to inherit). They can't make him pay from his own money/assets, but can potentially get her share of money and assets. This means that they could potentially put  a lien on a house owned by both of them.
2) He may be responsible for some medical bills, including ones that may have been put on a credit card: the law requires spouses to provide for the fundamental basics of care, including necessary medical care, for each other, so for necessary (not elective) medical care, the care providers can hold him accountable. And, if not paid, they can again put a lien on the home.
3) Anything done to title now, after she passed, while not affect creditor's rights.
If bills have been sent to collections, your father-in-law should consult with an attorney: the lawyer can advise which he has to pay, which he does not, which can proceed against the estate, even if not him personally, etc.; help him respond to collections efforts; and try to negotiate settlements for any bills he does owe.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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