My father died last year. My mother needs to obtain his medical records in order to move forward with a possible malpractice suit. She has been told by the hospital where my father died that she needs a Letter of Authority to obtain the records. My father left very few assets that did not pass automatically to my mother upon his death, so she did not need to go through probate or open the estate. How does she get a Letter of Authority under these circumstances?
There are only two ways I know of to obtain the medical records of a decedent, and BOTH of them involve opening a probate estate. You can file a petition and open an estate, requesting that a "special administrator" be appointed, in order to request the medical records. Or you can simply open an estate, have your mother appointed as PR, and then have her request them, herself.
If she decides to pursue a medical malpractice case, the only one who can do that is the PR, so she would need to have an estate open to do that, anyway. If she opens the estate and discovers there is not enough evidence to pursue an action, she can always close the estate after a few months, anyway. The cost in opening the estate would be $150 for the filing fee, $12 for certified letters of authority and roughly $70 to publish a creditors' claims notice in the newspaper. There might also be a $5-10 charge for an inventory fee.
I have a detailed description of the probate process available on my website. It might be possible to open the estate without hiring an attorney, initially. That would save a few hundred dollars.
Best of luck to you!
Mr. Frederick is licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and has offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration.
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