Mom passed away in October 2010 and the funds are running out, but the bills keep on coming in. What are my responsibilities to pay her medical bills? - AgingCare.com

Mom passed away in October 2010 and the funds are running out, but the bills keep on coming in. What are my responsibilities to pay her medical bills?

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What are my responsibilities to pay my mother's medical bill? She passed away in October 2010 and the funds are running out but the bills keep on coming in. Medicare has paid but Horizon is next to impossible to deal with. She spent over 40 days in the hospital and did not use the rehab services but all are still billing for them. They insisted onkeeping her even though they had to have known that her condidtion was terminal. What do I do when the money runs out?

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Shonin, Mila & others - two very real problems is that in the US the debt collection industry keeps on contacting whomever in an attempt to get any $$. Talking to them just doesn't work.

Unless you sent a letter/notice in writing with a RRM (return registered mail or the USPS "green card") or other delivery confirmation that proves they got it, they will continue to call & mail. The debt goes from the "ownership" of the original creditor like Discover then get's sold for pennies on the debt dollar to a secondary collector then if they don't get any $, then to a third collector and on & on....

I went through this in helping my DH with my MIL and a maiden aunt whom I was executrix for (get this, I didn't even know I was named as executrix till I got a call from a cousin who thought they were named......). MIL has a real problem with home shopping networks and opening small credit card accounts with small companies like J. Jill clothing, which she never could pay as she has no real income. We started getting phone calls & bills at our home for her bills. Extra fun was that a MD who's name is almost the same as MIL got those bills too so we got a letter from her attorney regarding this. All this was 2005 - 2008 and we STILL periodically get bills for yet another new credit collection agency as the debt has been resold yet again. My BIL who is now dealing with her as she has moved to another state is now receiving the collection letters.

Aunt had inheirited land back in the 1940's that never went thru probate. She paid property taxes and everything else on it but never did probate the sections she inhierited. The sections are just raw land. Over the years there was encroachment on it from surrounding properties - it was a bit of a mess as there was the issue of years of use and updating mineral rights. It got eventually sold to one of the neighbors. But to this day I still get snide remarks from my cousins that I gave her property away.

Alot of people don't want to go thru probate as they don't see the need of having to pay for an attorney to do this as their parent really didn't have much or the money was spent on the funeral and burial and there's no money left. So they just don't deal with the legal paperwork and it kinda just seems to go away.......Family keeps living in the old homestead, driving the car, whatever. Years go by and it's still in great grandma's & grandpa's name. No clear title.

The problem comes when you need to legally do something with the property, like sell or tranfer it. We saw alot of this after Hurricane Katrina when people lost their homes and were applying for aid, loans and grants. I've been told that about 1/3 of the homes did NOT have clear title and without that the insurance company would not pay, FEMA would not provide emergency housing as the name of the property owner was not the name of the applicant. Same for SBA in securing low interest loans.

Probate is really important and once it's done the creditors
have no standing to get paid.
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You talk the en charge personel, tell them what is your situation. Firstly that is not your bill and tell the truth you don't have money to pay off. It's your mums bills not yours.
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If she had her own finances and the medical bills were in her name, you are not responsible for them. Any money that was left over in the estate would have to be used to pay these off, but after the estate is depleted, send a letter to the hospital, electric company, credit card company ect. and let them know her assets have been depleted. They are still required to send you collection notices for 6 months but after that they should be writing them off.
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I don't know the law in USA but here in Aust as soon as your parent passes away you must inform all necessary organisations and companies. Once that is done in writing there should be very little further payments required.
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What I think he's referring to regarding transfer's is:

If you or whomever in your mom's family moved $$ or anything else that is a true asset (something that has a real value, like your mom's 24 place setting sterling silver flatware or an appraised coin collection) from either under her name to yours or from her ownership to yours in the recent past. Your mom's vintage collection of Avon bottles that your sister-in-law took from the house the day of the funeral doesn't count.

Unless mom had a big estate (& IMHO if that was the case her estate attorney already did the paperwork years ago and you probably wouldn't be on this site asking for insight), there isn't anything "transferred" to worry about. Sometimes this is called a "claw back". If she was on Medicaid she has already been vetted (evaluated) for financial standing, and if she was poor enough to qualify for Medicaid there are no assets.

The medical part, I think he's talking about the situation that a
health care institution (hospital, clinic, rehab unit) faces unless there is a clear DNR (Do not resusitate) or Advance Directives
done by your mom before she ever entered the hospital for care and they (the health care institution) had a copy(ies) of
it. Only then could they could stop doing whatever to/for her if it was not along what she indicated in her Advance Directives and that you as her her MPOA told them to stop doing. Without these legal documents and a strong personality within the family to remind them of this, they cannot keep from doing procedures even if she is terminal.

I know it doesn't seem right but that's the way it is. It is just so
important to have all of this done in advance. Good luck.
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Dear chadburbage1. Thanks for the reply but please answer inENGLISH!!! I can understand medical language but nor legal.
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I have a counter opinion to ezcare. And it is a personal one, my own. It is for the person and family to decide how long to receive treatment, considering all that is relevant. Absent any input, the caregiver should assume until told otherwise treatments should continue, excepting by court order.
Further, while your mother's debts are not your debts, if there was a recent transfer of personal or real property, that property might be subject to avoidance and via court proceding be returned to the estate of your mother. Obviously this is true if there is documentation of such a transfer.
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mydog1--as others have stated, unless you were POA and also Executor of your mother's estate, then you have NO responsibility for these bills. However you mention: "She spent over 40 days in the hospital and did not use the rehab services but all are still billing for them. They insisted onkeeping her even though they had to have known that her condidtion was terminal."
This could possibly be a case of Medicaid fraud and you should at least report it to your State's Medicaid administrator for investigation. You maynot have any financial obligation for your mother's medical bills but if you don't question this and Medicaid pays, then we all pay for it through higher Medicare Taxes and decreased medical benefits. So please check it out.
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Mydog1 -you are not responsible for any bills that are in her name. Whomever was DPOA for her was responsible for paying her bills from her wholly owned assets in whatever manner they deemed appropriate (e.g. property taxes rather than a dentist's bill) when she was alive. Now that she is deceased, whomever is executor of her estate is responsible for paying out whatever based on assets left in her estate. The executor will be named in her will. This all has to or should go through probate in whatever county/parish she died in. Some folks don't go thru probate but if there was any property owned by her then you really should as you can't sell without clear title which probate does. I'm a fan of having an estate attorney to take care of the details of probate but you can do it on your own. Her creditors have to go to the hearings (which will have a notice of date/time in the local paper) to get themselves "placed" as a creditor. They usually don't bother and if they don't they are SOL in getting any $$. Also you can drag out probate for years - that alone wears out creditors.

If she died without a will then it's a whole other issue and then the county deals with it (her assets and debts). Each state kinda does this differently. This can be a real mess. You should see an elder care attorney who does probate for this if there's
$ or property that the family wants. IMHO if all there is debt
and no property then let the state deal with it.

If you weren't the legal DPOA or named the executor then it's not legally your problem. If this is the case then my suggestion is to send to each creditor contacting you a letter stating that "XXXX is deceased - attached is a copy of her death certificate - I am not responsible for any debts incurred by XXX. This letter sent to you RRM (return registered mail) is your notification that I am not to be contacted regarding this issue either by phone or my mail. Any and all correspondence is to sent to the executor of her estate." Now you DO NOT have
to let them know who is the executor - they have to find that out on their own. You MUST sent this RRM otherwise they will tell you they never received it. The cheapest way is certified mail with RRM card attached - runs about $ 6.00 per letter.

If you are the executor, I would go an rent a post office box
for all the debts/invoices/etc to be mailed to, so that you are not hounded at your home on all this. Then the letters to the creditors should read: " XXX is deceased - attached is copy of death certificate - any and all debts related to XXX should be
sent in writing to "Estate of XXX, POB 12345, City, USA". Again send this RRM. Lots of UPS stores also have mail boxes for rent - this could be a good place to get one as well as Mail Boxes Etc. If you can get friendly with them, so that they call you when you get stuff.

Whatever the case, you want to keep all this paperwork together and separate from your own personal stuff. If you start co-mingling how you pay for debt if can get sticky unless you had agreements in place before death regarding this.

IMHO the only creditors who matter are those who are "secured" which is the IRS, the mortgage company (they will need to sign off in order to clear probate if she had a home and still owed on it) and her state Dept of Health & Human Services if she was on Medicaid and they have her homestead under the estate recovery program (they can require the $$ paid by Medicaid be reinbursed to the state when her homestead is sold or transferred). All other creditors (Visa, hospitals, health care providers, department stores) are unsecured creditors and
are out of luck in getting paid once she is deceased as her
debts died with her.

This is a real PIA to deal with but you have to be very consistent with the creditors. They know that you are dealing with your own emotions and not thinking clearly and will prey on this. Remember "her debts died with her", "her debts died with her" That should be your mantra. Good luck.
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If your name is not on any of the bills and your mom was on Medicaid...no one is responsible. Or even if she is not on medicaid and the estate is gone.There is no one to go after in this matter as long as no ones name is on any of the bills.
The providers, charge cards etc has no choice but to write of the balance. Sins of the father so to speak does not land on the child for responsiblity.

My Mom is on Medicaid and is in a nursing home and they of course took everything....my name is on nothing and by law the creditors must write them off.
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