What can happen if my mother recently passed away from brain cancer with an accumulated debt of over $200,000 in medical bills?

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What can happen if my mother recently passed away from brain cancer with an accumulated debt of over $200,000 in medical bills?

My mother has suffered from brain cancer for many years. Now, my father is concerned the hospital can place a lien on his house, which also has my mother’s name on the title. It’s paid off and he doesn’t want to lose it. What are his considerations for owing the debt?

Asked on January 3, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, New Hampshire

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

While he *may* not owe the debt directly, her estate--which means her assets or jointly held assets--could be liable. In addition, depending on the form(s) he signed while he was in the hospital, he may well have obligated himself to pay.

One option to deal with overwhelming medical debt is bankruptcy; it is an unsecured debt, and so can potentially be discharged. Also, some states (e.g. FL) protect a spouse's primary residence from collections efforts. Given how much is at stake, your father should consult with a bankruptcy attorney to discuss his right and options.


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