My mom died intestate no will 4 months ago. She has over 192,000 in medical bills. I want to keep the house. What options do I have?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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My mom died intestate no will 4 months ago. She has over 192,000 in medical bills. I want to keep the house. What options do I have?

My mom died of Leukemia in August 2018. She has roughly 192,000 in medical bills, most of which have been turned over to collections agencies. There is still another 58,000 owed on the mortgage, but I want to keep the house. I’ve been paying the mortgage since she passed away. Oddly, her Medicare plan didn’t go into effect until 2 months AFTER she died. Would Medicare still pay a large sum of that money if I were to file a claim or something? I understand that as her child, I’m not liable for her debts after death. However, her estate is. With this debt, her estate could possibly become insolvent as the house is currently worth 131,000. But as I mentioned, I want to keep the house. I haven’t even gone through probate court yet. She has an estimated total of 105,000 in combined Life Insurance Thrift Savings Plan money. If I were to agree to claim responsibility for paying off her debts over time, would I be able to keep the house?

Asked on January 8, 2019 under Estate Planning, North Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

1) Medicare will not retroactively pay bills.
2) You are correct that you are not personally liable for the debts, but that her estate is; her creditors can take the $105k in savings, etc. and then after that, since that still leaves $87k not paid for, put a lien and the house and/or try to force it to be sold to pay bills (if it is sold, the mortgage is paid first; then the other creditors; then the heirs/beneficiaries--i.e. you--would get anything left over).
3) You have no right to pay over time and keep the house. You could try to negotiate this with the various creditors, including the mortgage lender, but it is voluntary on the part of the creditors to work with you this way.

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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