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After my husband's death, how should I handle the medical bills?

Decatur, GA |

My husband recently died. We did not have a will, the house was in my name and the cars were paid for. His medical coverage was through my job and the majority of his debt are medical bills. I've received information from two friends who recently lost their husbands. One said to go through the Probate Court and apply for the year support. There is a fee of approx. $300. A notice is sent to your debtors and your bills are set aside for a year. There is no guarantee that the debt will be written off - you may have to deal with this debt after a year. Another friend told me to simply send a copy of my husband's death certificate with the latest medical bill. What is the difference between what the probate Court does and me sending a death cert to debtors myself? How should I handle?

Attorney Answers 2


I'm sorry about your husband's death. If Georgia is like California, filing a probate proceeding starts and "official" clock running on how long a debtor has in which to make a claim for payment. In California, if the debtor does not file a claim within 4 months after the Notice of Administration of Estate is sent, they are barred (prohibited) from filing the claim.

If money is an issue, you can certainly try what friend #2 suggested - perhaps some of the companies will write off the remaining debt. If any creditors remain after you've tried "Option #2", you can spend the $300 and go to probate court to see if the rest will write off the debt, too.

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You did not mention how the cars are titled. If they are in your husband's name, you should be able to go to the tag office and file an affidavit getting the cars titled in your name. There is an article I authored about year's support on this website. If your husband's name was not on the house, and if there are no other assets in his name, filing for a year's support will not be productive for you. However, if you find that there are assets in his name for which you will have to open an estate, then filing for year's support may allow you to skip that step. I would urge you to contact an attorney before proceeding on a claim for year's support. The people to whom your husband owed money may make claims against his estate. However, if there is nothing in the estate, they will not get paid. You should not use insurance money or other assets that pass to you directly rather than through the estate to pay his debts. You are not obligated to pay his debts.

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