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Is wife responsible for medical bills after husband's death?

Palm Beach Gardens, FL |

Elderly husband & wife of 20 years moved to an independent living facility in Florida from NJ. Husband of 92 has since been diagnosed with cancer & going for various treatments. He is only paying his Doctor bills. No other medical bills, which are accumulating are being paid. Upon his death, will his 93 year old wife be responsible for any of these unpaid bills? If so, would having most of her assets in a trust be helpful to her?

Attorney Answers 4


The statute of frauds in Florida will prevent someone from suing you to answer for the debt of another. Unless you have obligated yourself IN WRITING then you cannot be held liable for your husband's death. Be very careful and read everything very closely about admissions into facilities and the like, as some of these documents attempt to make the signer liable for the patient's debts.

It is important to contact an elder law attorney immediately to ensure that there is proper estate planning and asset protection in place prior to the husband's death. You do not want assets to be probate assets and then subject to creditor's claims, such as the hospital and medical bills. Generally, everything owned singularly by the husband would be a probate asset. There are exceptions for 2 automobiles, and a family allowance of $18,0000, and you can exempt up to $20,000.00 in property. Make sure investment accounts and bank accounts are titled with the wife as the survivor/beneficiary so that those assets pass outside of probate. You will want to take the husband off the trust as a revocable living trust does nothing for asset protection and in fact even if all assets are titled in a trust, creditors can make claims against the assets held in trust.

These are some of the issues that you need to deal with and while the list isn't exhaustive, its meant to spurn you into action and consult an elder law/estate planning attorney.

Best of luck to you!

This answer has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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you need to speak to an elder care lawyer immediately

without a detailed review by a lawyer can all the issues raised in your question be appropriately addressed...nothing in this response should be construed as establishing a lawyer client relationship..the answers herein are for informational purposes and not to be construed as advice

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Most likely she will not be responsible for his bills unless she obligates herself by contract.
She should see an elder law attorney about possible government benefits availible.

The answer given does not imply that an attorney-client relationship has been established and your best course of action is to have legal representation in this matter.

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In Florida, the wife is not liable for the husband's medical bills unless she specifically guarantees those accounts. However, if there are assets titled in the name of the husband alone, such assets would have to go through probate upon his death and would be subject to the claims of creditors.

There are at least two areas that should be explored carefully with an elder law attorney. The first is asset protection regarding the general creditor claims (medical expenses etc.) and the second is planning for long-term care custodial expenses for both spouses.

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