Is a surviving spouse responsible for their decesed spouse’s medical expenses?

UPDATED: Jul 9, 2012

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Is a surviving spouse responsible for their decesed spouse’s medical expenses?

I did not sign anything regarding responsibility of medical expenses when my wife went into the hospital for labor and child birth. She died as a result of complications of the birth and now I have a collection agency threatening me for the balance due.

Asked on July 9, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Missouri


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  It depends on the state in which you live under what is known as the "Doctrine of Necessities."  Generally speaking the estate of the spouse is responsible for the bills.  But if the estate does not have enough in it and the state adheres to the doctrine, the surviving spouse could be responsible.  Your state does indeed have this doctrine as law.  I would consult with an attorney as soon as you can.  Good luck.

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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