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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Default Responsibility for medical bills after death in Washington

    (I'm sorry to be wordy, I don't know how to pare it down)

    We live in WA.

    My father in law died in Nov. He left nothing but debts and evidence of having stolen money from his wife (forging her name to take money from her life insurance). All the wills at the house (they never threw anything away) say the same thing, that it all goes to his wife. Of course, he had nothing. He never got life insurance after the last time he cashed his in, because they always thought that my mother in law's health would cause her to die first.

    I've been helping figure out all the bills and changing bills into her name only, changing car insurance, etc etc etc. He had Medicare (as does she), he was receiving SS benefits (so now she receives survivor's benefits and the half of his pension that she was entitled to), he had supplemental insurance that is pretty good. The bills coming in aren't for THAT much, but it's just the beginning right now.

    Today my mother in law had a health crisis; she had tuberculosis as a 20-something, and it has weakened her lungs. Today I started wondering, if she were to pass away after an illness, who would pay for HER medical bills, from that care? She has nothing as well.

    Since she has nothing, no estate, there's no money to pay bills after she dies. And to me it makes no sense that her grown children would have to pay from their own money, for her medical bills. Would they? It would make sense, if there were an inheritance, for that money to pay for her bills, but there will be no inheritance.

    So that's one question.

    And the second question came from that question...I know WA is community property, but are medical bills, when the spouse has died after receiving the medical treatment, required to be paid by the surviving spouse, when there was no estate? Does she have to pay from her paltry survivor's benefits and half pension?

    I'm so afraid I messed up while helping her (their children were in NO shape to help, but I've been through losing a parent and was the strongest), I'm so afraid that even though he had NOTHING, no money at all, that I messed up in not sending her to a lawyer right when he died...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Default Re: WA-two questions re: responsibility for med.bills after death

    And what kind of attorney would we find, to get help with this after-the-fact? I know a family lawyer and a tax attorney, but I don't think that either one of those will be correct.

    By the way, the dates on the wills they had were from the early 90s. My father in law had an aversion to going back to lawyers (he let a business problem take his house, even though he had insurance and was incorporated, just gave over his personal money without EVER contacting his business attorneys) once he went there, so he didn't "have a lawyer" that my mother in law could tell me about.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Bikini Atoll

    Default Re: WA-two questions re: responsibility for med.bills after death

    When mom passes, her estate, if any, will be responsible for any unpaid bills. Her estate includes real estate (i.e. her home). When there is no estate or an estate is bankrupt, any creditors are out of luck.

    Probate attorney is the type required.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005

    Default Re: WA-two questions re: responsibility for med.bills after death

    Her children will not inherit her debts. If her estate is inadequate to pay off her obligations, the creditors will have to absorb the loss.

    I have not found anything on the "doctrine of necessities" in Washington State, the common law doctrine under which a spouse may be held responsible for such expenses as the necessary medical expenses incurred by the other spouse. Perhaps somebody else will have more luck, or knows the answer to that one.

    The type of lawyer you would speak to about these issues is an estate planning lawyer. Such a lawyer would also be able to advise you as to spousal responsibility for medical bills.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Default Re: Responsibility for medical bills after death in Washington

    Thank you!

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