This is an important question for all married couples. Most people would say that if the debt of the deceased spouse was only in his or her name, then the surviving spouse would not be responsible. This is true, most of the time, such as with credit card debt or car loans. However, there are important and potentially ruinous exceptions and these are the debts incurred for hospital and nursing home care. Under the Doctrine of Necessaries, the surviving spouse can be held personally liable for the hospital and nursing home bills of the deceased spouse. This doctrine is an old common law concept dating back to the laws of England centuries ago. Today, it is upheld in North Carolina as spelled out in North Carolina General Statutes §131E-91.
What Expenses Is The Surviving Spouse Responsible For?Basically, if the expenses incurred by the deceased spouse are deemed to be “necessary,” the living spouse would be on the hook. Today these “necessary” expenses are recognized as hospital/medical and nursing home costs. To hold the surviving spouse responsible for these costs, the following has to be proven: >
- That the services were provided to the spouse
- That the services were necessary for health and wellbeing
- That the surviving spouse and the deceased spouse were married, and not legally separated, at the time the services were provided; and
- That payment for these services has not been made.