Is my mother responsible for my father’s medical bills once he passes?

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Is my mother responsible for my father’s medical bills once he passes?

Asked on December 1, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Illinois

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In most states (excluding community property states) one spouse is not typically responsible for the debts of the other. That is unless they expressly agreed to be (e.g. they were a co-signer on a loan, etc.). Also, there exists something in the law known as the "Doctrine of Necessities". In certain states, debts incurred for medical treatment are generally considered "necessities". Accordingly, a deceased spouse's estate is primarily liable for medical bills. If the deceased spouse maintained no separate assets, then the state invokes the doctrine of necessities to determine whether or not the surviving spouse would be liable for the such bills; in other words a spouse may be held liable for necessary medical services provided to the other spouse.

Specifically, in IL, there is such a law called the "Rights of Married Persons Act" which makes a spouse liable for such expenses (i.e. medical bills), whether or not you authorized or agreed to them.

At this point you should consult directly with an attorney in your area as to your specific rights/responsibilities.


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