Are Parents Responsible for their Deceased Adult Children’s Medical Bills?

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“We are in the state of Virginia. My elderly aunt and uncle’s adult (50 years old) daughter died after a relatively short but severe illness. She did not have medical insurance. Now the hospital says they must pay nearly $300,000 in medical costs.

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This daughter was not disabled prior to this physical event, and when she died she actually had been cleared to go back to her normal activities. She did live in the same house as her parents to help them out.

Are elderly parents responsible for their deceased adult children’s medical bills?”

First, my condolences to you and your family on the loss of your cousin.

Unfortunately, there is no straight-forward answer to your question, because it will depend on many factors, including your local state laws, Federal and state debt collection laws and, yes, even HIPAA, and, of course, whether they signed anything at any time which would obligate them for the debt.

What I can say for certain is that whether your uncle and aunt would be legally obligated to pay the bill, it is likely that the hospital will do everything it can to make them *believe* that they are obligated to pay the debt. For that reason, they should consult with an attorne who is familiar with credit and debt collection practices. If they find that they are somehow legally obligated to pay the debt, they may even wish to consider filing for bankruptcy, or even trying to reach an agreement with the hospital in exchange for their *not* filing bankruptcy.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.

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