How to Handle Medical Bills After Death With No Estate

It can get complicated when someone tragically passes away and leaves behind medical debt after death. In most cases, the deceased person’s estate will pay off the unpaid debts, resulting in a solvent estate. However, if the deceased person’s estate cannot cover all of the debts or they don’t have an estate, this results in an insolvent estate. 

When there are medical bills after death with no estate or an insolvent one, the job of payment may pass on to family members. This is where things can get messy and result in massive medical debt after death that you cannot pay for. 

If you’re attempting to cope with the death of a loved one while simultaneously trying to pay off their debts, you’ve come to the right place. There’s a good chance that you aren’t responsible for paying these debts or that you can negotiate for a lower payment. Because of the complexities involved with repaying medical bills after death with no estate, it might be necessary to contact us at Amazing Healthcare Consultants alongside an estate attorney. 


What to Expect From Medical Bills With No Estate

As we said before, if someone leaves medical or credit card debt behind them when they pass away, it’s up to the estate to pay them off. An estate executor if named in the Last Will & Testament, or an estate administrator if appointed by the court will be responsible for paying debts from the assets of the estate. If an estate is not solvent (i.e. insolvent), creditors often write off or forgive the remaining debt. 

However, depending on the debt amount, creditor, and other factors, creditors don’t always forgive it. Instead, they may come after you and attempt to pressure you into repaying the debt, whether you can afford it or not or whether you’re legally responsible for it or not. 


Solvent Versus Insolvent Estate 

First, a person’s estate refers to all the assets, investments, and interests of a deceased person. This typically includes money in their bank accounts, land and real estate, collectibles, furnishings, investments, and intangible assets. When the assets of the estate are greater than the debt, the estate is considered solvent. However, when the debts including medical debt are more than the value of the estate, the estate is considered insolvent. 

According to Cuddigan Law, “Unsecured medical debt is easily the thorniest kind of debt to deal with. In most states, medical debt has a priority position for payment when an estate is settled. If the deceased received Medicaid benefits at any time after they turned 55, the state might pursue repayment from the estate. [Medicaid Estate Recovery] Because medical debt is so complex, it is best to seek the advice of an attorney.” You can also contact a healthcare advocate for assistance. 

You’ll likely need assistance because of how the courts deal with an insolvent estate. In most cases, according to state law, they will divvy out the money from your estate to the most deserving creditors. They’ll continue until all the creditors are satisfied or until the estate doesn’t have assets left.


Understanding Your Rights Regarding Your Deceased Spouse’s Medical Bills 

medical bill after death consultation

If your spouse passed away and left a mountain of medical bills after their death with no estate, it’s important to understand that you have rights. While creditors will come after you in pursuit of their money whether you’re legally responsible or not, you may actually not be completely financially responsible, depending on the situation and type of debt. 

Co-Signed Loans 

In many cases, people are forced to take out loans or debts from banks and third-party creditors to pay for their medical debts. When they don’t have sufficient credit, someone has to co-sign the loan with them. If the primary signer passes away, the co-signer/co-borrower may be responsible for repaying the debt alongside the deceased person’s estate. 

Credit Card Debts 

The same concept applies to joint credit card accounts. If you and your spouse have a joint account, then any debt you accrued will fall into your spouse’s responsibility when you pass away. This would be a rude awakening if you used your credit cards to pay for some or all of your medical bills. However, there’s a difference between a joint cosigned account and being an authorized user on an account, which would not make you responsible for the accrued debt.

Community Property

The Uniform Marital Property Act created a new class of property that belonged to the marriage vs. individuals. However, only 9 States enacted laws to stipulate this. . Thus if you are in a Community Property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin), any debts accrued become the responsibility of the marriage and thus the surviving spouse. 

Filial Responsibility Laws 

Finally, through filial responsibility laws, creditors may pursue payment from surviving children for unpaid debts. Filial responsibility laws apply if you live in a state that has these laws enacted. They can also apply if you cosigned a loan with your parents or signed a contract on their behalf to admit them to a nursing home or care facility. 

Here are the states that have enacted filial responsibility laws

  • Alaska 
  • Arkansas 
  • California 
  • Connecticut 
  • Delaware 
  • Georgia 
  • Indiana 
  • Kentucky 
  • Louisiana 
  • Massachusetts 
  • Mississippi 
  • Montana 
  • Nevada 
  • New Jersey 
  • North Carolina 
  • North Dakota 
  • Ohio 
  • Oregon 
  • Pennsylvania 
  • Tennessee 
  • Rhode Island 
  • South Dakota 
  • Utah 
  • Vermont 
  • Virginia 
  • West Virginia 
  • Alaska 
  • Arkansas 
  • California 
  • Connecticut 
  • Delaware 
  • Georgia 
  • Indiana 
  • Kentucky 
  • Louisiana 
  • Massachusetts 
  • Mississippi 
  • Montana 
  • Nevada 
  • New Jersey 
  • North Carolina 
  • North Dakota 
  • Ohio 
  • Oregon 
  • Pennsylvania 
  • Tennessee 
  • Rhode Island 
  • South Dakota 
  • Utah 
  • Vermont 
  • Virginia 
  • West Virginia 
  • Alaska 
  • Arkansas 
  • California 
  • Connecticut 
  • Delaware 
  • Georgia 
  • Indiana 
  • Kentucky 
  • Louisiana 
  • Massachusetts 
  • Mississippi 
  • Montana 
  • Nevada 
  • New Jersey 
  • North Carolina 
  • North Dakota 
  • Ohio 
  • Oregon 
  • Pennsylvania 
  • Tennessee 
  • Rhode Island 
  • South Dakota 
  • Utah 
  • Vermont 
  • Virginia 
  • West Virginia 

However, filial responsibility laws are sometimes if at all enforced and will depend on your specific case. 


7 Tips for Handling Medical Bills After Death With No Estate 

Now that you better understand how medical bills after death with no estate work, let’s look at how to handle them. 

1. Ensure You’re Responsible for the Bills

You may want to check with an estate attorney to ensure that you’re actually responsible for the medical debt.

2. Review the Medical Bills 

The first thing you should do is review your medical bills. The billing department may have made a mistake by double-billing you, adding incorrect treatments or medications to your bill, or simply overcharging you. You can save yourself thousands of dollars in incorrect bills by spotting these errors. 

3. Communicate With Your Creditors 

It’s important to maintain open communication with your creditors at all times during the medical billing process. By keeping a good relationship with them and keeping them informed about your financial situation, they’re more likely to reduce your medical bills. 

4. Negotiate Your Medical Bills 

Rather than considering your medical bills to be set in stone, consider them like an item at a flea market or garage sale. They’re negotiable. If creditors see that you won’t be able to repay them fully, you can negotiate with them for a lower price. You can also offer them a large chunk of the payment in cash in exchange for the remaining balance to be forgotten. 

While you’re allowed to negotiate medical bills, it’s a difficult and sometimes timely process. You might benefit from hiring a healthcare advocate to assist you with forming a plan of attack and handling negotiations for you. 

5. Understanding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act 

When debt collectors start applying pressure, it’s important to understand your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Under this Act, you, as a borrower, have certain rights regarding repaying the debt and how it’s collected. You can also hold your creditor liable if they don’t follow the rules outlined in the Act. 

6. Seek a Medical Advocate’s Assistance 

Anytime you have a question regarding medical bills when someone dies, it’s always wise to contact a medical advocate. Medical and healthcare advocates are trained professionals who understand how medical billing and debt work. We’ll be able to guide you through the repayment process and help you understand your rights. 

7. Contact Your Lawyer 

While we’re a great asset to have on hand, it might be necessary to contact a lawyer for further assistance. Lawyers will better understand which estate and filial laws apply to you and can help you navigate the legal side of things. 


Protect Your Spouse and Child From Unnecessary Debt 

Because of the possible implications that medical debt could mean for your spouse and children, you should do everything in your power to reconcile your debts before passing away. If you think the situation is hopeless and you don’t know what to do, Amazing Healthcare Consultants is here to help. Our services will benefit your spouse and your children and protect them from unnecessary debts. 


Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Bills After Death


Who Should I Contact for Assistance With Medical Bills After Death?

While medical debt sometimes gets forgiven after death, there’s a good chance it won’t be. This is especially true if you co-signed with your spouse or parent or live in a state with filial responsibility or community property laws. In that case, you may be held responsible for repaying debts after death if the estate is insolvent.

If you’re struggling to understand your rights, negotiate your bills, form a repayment plan, or do anything else relating to medical bills, contact us at Amazing Healthcare Consultants. Our team of current and former healthcare professionals understand the medical system and can help you navigate through it.

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