Duffield, VA asked in Collections for Tennessee

Q: A medical collection agency is telling me I have to pay a bill for my wife who died..I live on s.s. do i owe or not.

Related Topics:
1 Lawyer Answer
  • Collections Lawyer
  • Cary, NC

A: Would you get medical advice from your car mechanic? Or have a plumber do your dental work?

If the answer is no, then do not look to a collection agency to give you proper legal advice. They lie frequently because they want paid.

The answer to your question is "it depends." I am not licensed in Tennessee so you need to discuss this with a Tennessee attorney. When did your wife die? Did she have a will? Was an estate ever probated for her? If not, why not? Was it because there were insufficient assets to justify probate? Can an estate still be probated or is it too late?

If an estate can be probated then you need to pursue with a probate attorney. In probate, the estate for your deceased wife is liable for her medical debts and the estate would have to pay the bill.

If probate is not on the table, then you need to talk with a lawyer who specializes in collection defense of debt. Some states have a rule called the doctrine of necessaries. What the rule says is that if a person incurs medical expenses and does not pay, then his or her spouse then becomes responsible. So you need to figure out if you are liable under the doctrine of necessaries. If you are, then you need to figure out when the medical expenses were incurred and what the statute of limitations would be for your state. If the statute has expired, then you no longer would have a legal duty to even pay.

Finally, if you are on Social Security and do not work and have no other significant assets which would be at risk if a judgment was entered against you, then consider not paying at all. What can the collection agency do to you if all your assets are exempt? Social Security generally cannot be garnished and the creditor would need to get a judgment.

You need to confirm your situation with the attorney, but perhaps for a reasonable fee the attorney would be willing to send the debt collector a letter on your behalf explaining that you are living on a fixed income that cannot be garnished and you have no other assets and that the collector should simply write off the debt.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.