Does husband owe for wife's hospital bill?

My wife and I were on Medicare and Social Security Disability. My wife went into the hospital and gave them her Medicare card which was her only insurance coverage. After several days confinement she passed away. Medicare Part A paid what they owed and the hospital sent a bill to my "wife" asking for the deductible. I called the business office and tried to work out a compromise on the deductible. Of course when she passed away, I lost her monthly Social Security payment. I tried several times to work out a reduced payment amount but they refused.

It is now been turned over to a collection agency who I have ignored. When my wife was admitted to the hospital she gave them her Medicare card. I did not sign anything myself guaranteeing payment of her balance or deductible. Since I did not sign anything, do I have a legal responsibility to pay the deductible? The last time I spoke with the business office I told them to "collect their bill from my wife"! We lived in Texas and I still do.

Reply from DebtCollectionAnswers.com:

We are so sorry to hear of your wife's death.

Typically when someone dies the spouse or other family members are not responsible unless they cosigned for the debt. However, there are some exceptions. For example, if you live in a community property state, you may be responsible for the debts your spouse incurred during your marriage. In addition, in some states, spouses (and parents) can be held responsible for their spouse's (or children's) medical debts.

So the first question is whether you are responsible for these debts of your wife's and the best we can tell you is that you may be. We are not attorneys and are not allowed to give legal advice, so you will have to talk with a consumer law attorney.

There is a second part to your question, though, that you may not have thought to ask, and that is, "What can they do to me if I can't pay?" If your income is from Social Security and you have no assets that creditors can go after, then you may be judgment proof which means there is really nothing for them to go after if they sue you.

Our suggestion is for you to at least get a consultation with a bankruptcy attorney to find out if you are judgment proof. If not the attorney can help you understand your options for dealing with this debt.

Again, our condolences.

Recommended reading: Deceased Person’s Debt FAQ

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