Legal Question in Credit and Debt Law in Pennsylvania

Is my mother responsible for my father's debt and medical bills after he passed?

Asked on 8/09/12, 10:16 am

1 Answer from Attorneys

Generally no, she would not be directly responsible. Your father's estate would be primarily responsible. If there is enough money in his probate estate, then all the bills are paid before the heirs receive anything (except the spousal/family allowance of $3500). See 20 Pa.C.S.A. 3121.

If there is not enough money in the estate, then claims are paid out in order of priority. Medical debts take precedence over things like credit card debt only to the extent that the 6 months of medical bills preceding death would be covered. See 20 Pa.C.S.A. 3392. When the estate runs out of money, that's it.

What kind of debts would there be? Credit cards? Or other things?

Also, there is a caveat on medical debts. There is something called the doctrine of necessaries. Under the PA version of the doctrine, the person who receives medical care is the one primarily responsible. If the person dies, then the health care provider would look to that person's estate. If there were insufficient funds in the estate and the person had a surviving spouse, then and only in that case might the health care provider ask for the spouse to pay.

In addition, if the person had to reside in a nursing home, then the spouse may be liable for nursing home care. See 23 Pa.C.S.A. 4603.

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Answered on 8/09/12, 3:57 pm

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