Are Beneficiaries Responsible for Medical Bills After Death?

According to the Federal Trade Commission — the consumer protection agency for the United States — family members are not responsible for paying medical bills for a deceased person. Federal and state laws determine the responsibility of all debt payments based on solvent or insolvent estates.

The deceased person’s estate is responsible for any outstanding debts. A solvent estate is able to pay for all debts, including medical bills, where the beneficiaries receive an inheritance.

An insolvent estate may not have enough funds to cover all the debts and heirs will receive nothing. The heir of an insolvent estate does not have to pay any funds towards the debt and the companies must write off the debt, unless the beneficiary is under a co-signed obligation. A spouse may be required to repay a debt if named in the loan.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act created by federal law protects beneficiaries and handles debt collection complaints.