Pay medical bills

Settle the Estate

Once other higher priority debt has been paid, pay any expenses associated with the deceased’s medical care.

Medical bills may include:

  • Hospital expenses
  • Nursing home fees
  • Hospice expenses
  • Long-term care fees

These bills can be paid in a variety of ways, depending on the deceased’s circumstances.

Payment types include:

  • Private health insurance or medicaid may pay some of the debt, but depending on the circumstances, there may be a co-pay or other balance still due
  • Payment by the surviving spouse if the deceased lived in a community property states (surviving spouse may be responsible for debts of the deceased acquired during marriage)
  • Some states have “filial responsibility laws” that require surviving family to pay for medical debt incurred by deceased family members like a spouse or parent
  • Some life insurance policies may have a long-term care “rider” which enables life insurance proceeds to be paid toward long-term care expenses. This lets individuals who own the policy access a portion of the policy’s death benefit to pay for monthly long-term care costs.
  • If the debt was co-signed or guaranteed by another person, they may be responsible for paying the debt

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders If there is any question as to how to pay medical debts, it may be wise to speak with a Probate attorney to find out who is responsible for the payment of medical debts.

Helpful Tips


Filial responsibility laws may require adult children to pay for their parent’s healthcare, if the parent is unable to pay for their own healthcare.

While the introduction of medicaid and medicare led many states to repeal filial responsibility laws, 27 states still have filial responsibility laws on the books.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant Each state applies filial responsibility laws differently, so it is important to review the laws of the state where the deceased lived to determine whether, and how, filial responsibility laws apply.

If the deceased lived in one of these states and incurred medical debts they were unable to pay, the service provider could potentially sue the deceased’s adult children to collect the debt. If this situation applies, it may be wise to contact an attorney experienced in collections defense.

They can advise whether you may have to pay the medical debt and whether options like medicare or medicaid might be available to help pay the debt.

The 27 states with filial responsibility laws are:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia

Personal Considerations


Did the deceased have outstanding medical bills?


The executor or administrator should first ensure the claim has been submitted to the deceased’s health insurance provider, if the deceased had health insurance.

If the deceased did not have health insurance or there is a co-payment due, the executor or administrator should pay the bill using the estate’s bank account, unless a surviving person co-signed with the deceased.

If there was a co-signer, review the instructions under the question, “were the deceased’s medical debts co-signed or guaranteed?”

When paying bills of the estate, including medical bills, keep copies of any invoices, receipts, checks, or statements reflecting the balance due and amount paid.

If there are not enough liquid funds (e.g. cash or money held in the estate bank account), the estate may be considered insolvent.

The executor or administrator may have to sell some of the estate’s assets (e.g. personal possessions or property) to obtain enough money to cover the bill.

Guides_Icon.svgRead More To learn more about Insolvent Estates, review the Task, “Determine Estate Solvency.”


The executor or administrator should ensure all other debts and bills of the estate are paid out of the estate account.

Guides_Icon.svgRead More For more information about other debt of the estate, review the Task, “Pay Other Bills and Expenses.”


If the deceased had outstanding medical bills:

The executor or administrator should first ensure the claim has been submitted to the deceased’s health insurance provider, if the deceased had health insurance.

If the deceased did not have health insurance or there is a co-payment due, the executor or administrator should pay the bill using the estate’s bank account, unless a surviving person co-signed with the deceased.

If there was a co-signer, review the instructions under the question, “were the deceased’s medical debts co-signed or guaranteed?”

When paying bills of the estate, including medical bills, keep copies of any invoices, receipts, checks, or statements reflecting the balance due and amount paid.

If there are not enough liquid funds (e.g. cash or money held in the estate bank account), the estate may be considered insolvent.

The executor or administrator may have to sell some of the estate’s assets (e.g. personal possessions or property) to obtain enough money to cover the bill.

Guides_Icon.svgRead More To learn more about Insolvent Estates, review the Task, “Determine Estate Solvency.”

If the deceased did not have medical debt:

The executor or administrator should ensure all other debts and bills of the estate are paid out of the estate account.

Guides_Icon.svgRead More For more information about other debt of the estate, review the Task, “Pay Other Bills and Expenses.”


Were the deceased's medical debts co-signed or guaranteed?


The surviving co-signer or guarantor will be responsible for paying the remaining balance of the medical debt.

A guarantor is a person who promises to pay the debt of another person (in this case, the deceased) if the other person is unable or unwilling to pay the debt.

To determine if there was a co-signer on any of the deceased’s medical debts, contact the healthcare provider.

They should have a record of any co-signers or guarantors.

If there was a co-signer, the executor or administrator should contact the co-signer or guarantor and notify them that they will be responsible for paying the deceased’s medical debt that they co-signed.

Be prepared to provide copies of the statement or invoice evidencing the medical debt, as the co-signer might need copies for their own records.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant If the deceased had health insurance, they may be responsible for a portion of the medical debt, even if it was co-signed or guaranteed by another person.

The co-signer or guarantor may still be responsible for a co-pay or co-insurance, however.


The deceased’s estate is responsible for paying the medical debt out of the estate bank account.

The executor or administrator should first ensure the claim has been submitted to the deceased’s health insurance provider, if the deceased had health insurance.

If the deceased did not have health insurance or there is a co-payment due, the executor or administrator should pay the bill using the estate’s bank account.

When paying bills of the estate, including medical bills, keep copies of any invoices, receipts, checks, or statements reflecting the balance due and amount paid.

If there are not enough liquid funds (e.g. cash or money held in the estate bank account), the executor or administrator may have to sell some of the estate’s assets (e.g. personal property) to obtain enough money to cover the bill.


If the deceased's medical debts were co-signed:

The surviving co-signer or guarantor will be responsible for paying the remaining balance of the medical debt.

A guarantor is a person who promises to pay the debt of another person (in this case, the deceased) if the other person is unable or unwilling to pay the debt.

To determine if there was a co-signer on any of the deceased’s medical debts, contact the healthcare provider.

They should have a record of any co-signers or guarantors.

If there was a co-signer, the executor or administrator should contact the co-signer or guarantor and notify them that they will be responsible for paying the deceased’s medical debt that they co-signed.

Be prepared to provide copies of the statement or invoice evidencing the medical debt, as the co-signer might need copies for their own records.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant If the deceased had health insurance, they may be responsible for a portion of the medical debt, even if it was co-signed or guaranteed by another person.

The co-signer or guarantor may still be responsible for a co-pay or co-insurance, however.

If the deceased's medical debts were not co-signed:

The deceased’s estate is responsible for paying the medical debt out of the estate bank account.

The executor or administrator should first ensure the claim has been submitted to the deceased’s health insurance provider, if the deceased had health insurance.

If the deceased did not have health insurance or there is a co-payment due, the executor or administrator should pay the bill using the estate’s bank account.

When paying bills of the estate, including medical bills, keep copies of any invoices, receipts, checks, or statements reflecting the balance due and amount paid.

If there are not enough liquid funds (e.g. cash or money held in the estate bank account), the executor or administrator may have to sell some of the estate’s assets (e.g. personal property) to obtain enough money to cover the bill.

Providers to Contact


Probate Attorneys Near You

Speak with a Probate attorney to find out who is responsible for the payment of medical debts. Probate attorneys help settle a deceased person’s estate and can help pay the debt of a deceased person's estate.

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