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Is an elderly wife responsible for the medical bills after her husband's death in the state of Tennessee? She's sole survivor.

Knoxville, TN |

There isn't an estate since everything just went to her. They both had Medicare and a supplimental insurance called HealthSpring. Her income alone will probably be less than $10,000 per year. I am the grand-daughter helping my grandmother with these issues since all three of their adult children are deceased.

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Attorney answers 4


I can't specifically answer as to the State of TN, but in most states, spouses are 100% responsible for paying each others medical debts. If the amount of the debt is overwhelming, these debts could be discharged in bankruptcy or the creditor may be unable to collect the debt. Hope this perspective helps!


In Tennessee, generally spouses are not liable for debts incurred solely by their spouse (we are not a community property state). However, It is possible she may be liable if she agreed to guarantee the obligation. This could have happened when she signed admission papers.

It is also possible that between Medicare and Healthsprings there will be no unpaid medical bills. If she is receiving bills or demands for payment I would first ask if they have been filed with Healthsprings. If insurance coverage is not paying, ask they provide the document your grandmother signed which obligates her to pay his debt.

Hope this is helpful. If you can't resolve by yourself you should be able to find an attorney who will give you low or no cost review of the documents and some advice on how to proceed.

This answer does not constitute legal advice nor form an attorney client relationship. I am not your lawyer. If you have a legal issue in Tennessee you may contact me for a free consult.


In general, spouses in Tennessee are liable for each other's "necessaries," which includes debts for necessary medical services. Determining what are necessary medical services may be difficult, but if you think that a medical service was necessary, a court would probably find that it is. However, MediCare and the supplement will probably cover almost all of the husband's medical bills.

I do not intend to form an attorney-client relationship by answering this question.


If you'd like to speak with someone regarding this matter, I'd recommend Matthew Duggin in Knoxville. This kind of thing is right up his alley. His number is 865-357-9988.

The information contained in this answer is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed in any way as the formation of an attorney-client relationship.

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