If my wife is deceased and had no assets am I responsible for her debt?

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If my wife is deceased and had no assets am I responsible for her debt?

My wife died 3 months ago. She had a hospital bill that she had been paying on for some time prior to her death. The hospital contacted me and said I’m responsible for the balance. Is that correct?

Asked on August 18, 2017 under Estate Planning, Missouri

Answers:

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

In most states, a spouse is not typically responsible for the debts of the other spouse unless they specifically agreed to be. However, there exists something called the "Doctrine of Necessities". In MO, as well as in some other states, debts incurred for medical treatment are generally considered family "necessities". Consequently, while a deceased spouse's estate is primarily liable for medical bills but if there seperate estate is not sufficient to cover all medical bills, then under the doctrine of necessities, the surviving spouse is liable for them. At this point you should consult directly with a local probate lawyer as to your specific rights/responsibilities.

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

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

In most states, a spouse is not typically responsible for the debts of the other spouse unless they specifically agreed to be. However, there exists something called the "Doctrine of Necessities". In MO, as well as in some other states, debts incurred for medical treatment are generally considered family "necessities". Consequently, while a deceased spouse's estate is primarily liable for medical bills but if there seperate estate is not sufficient to cover all medical bills, then under the doctrine of necessities, the surviving spouse is liable for them. At this point you should consult directly with a local probate lawyer as to your specific rights/responsibilities.


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