What is the statue of limitations for someone to sue against a deceased person's estate if an outstanding debt is due? My 92 yr. old aunt died 2 years ago and the hospital has been calling me lately concerning an unpaid balance, although they were provided with her Medicare and supplemental United Healthcare information, someone in their billing dept. dropped the ball and failed to submit the claim to United Healthcare. Now it is too late for the balance that Medicare did not pay to be submitted to United Healthcare.
2 Answers from Attorneys
You don't say who was the executor or administrator of the estate, but that person had a duty to investigate the debts and is the ONLY person who should be talking with the creditor. This should NOT be done without counsel. Depending on what the executor did, there may be a big problem for you. Hospitals are NOT required to submit bills to insurance; ultimately that is a patient's responsbility and the executor needs to go over details with his/her legal counsel.
The hospital would ultimately have to submit the claim to your aunt's estate if the estate is still pending. Since they are calling you, was an estate ever probated? If not, why not?
There are time limits for filing claims with estates which is one of the benefits of probating an estate. Generally, a personal representative has to publish notice of the death within 60 days after being appointed. The creditors have 3 months after the last notice is run. The notice has to be published weekly 4 times. If no estate was filed, did your aunt have any property to leave in her estate?
Why is the hospital calling you? Did you sign paperwork agreeing to be responsible or are you listed as next of kin?
If an estate was probated and the hospital was given proper notice and they did not file a claim timely, then the claim would be denied unless there are no other debts of higher priority that remain unpaid and there are sufficient assets in the estate.
If the hospital does not like it, then the hospital can sue the personal representative of your aunt's estate. If no estate was probated, one needs to be probated if your aunt had assets.
If your aunt had no assets (no bank accounts, stocks, home etc.) that justify probate and there was no probate and you did not sign anything agreeing to be responsible, then I would send a letter, preferably by certified mail, to the hospital's correspondence address. I would advise that your aunt is deceased (send a copy of the death certificate), that she had no assets justifying probate and that you are not personally liable for your aunt's debt and tell them to write this off.
United Healthcare is not going to pay and the bill cannot be submitted to them now. If a hospital does not bill the healthcare insurer, the patient remains liable for the bill, which in this case would be your aunt's estate. Hopefully, these things come to light sooner and if it is discovered within one year the claim can be resubmitted to the healthcare insurer.