Medical Debt

Medical Debt is Chasing My Friend After the Death of Her Husband

Written by Steve Rhode


Dear Steve,

Friend’s husband died after a 9 year battle with a brutal cancer and she is about to go under financially because of the medical bills. She has two girls who have just started college, she works and has a house – I’m afraid she is about to lose it all because of the massive med bills.

My friend received this letter from the hospital just 2 weeks after her husband died. (just one of many hospitals sending bills) She’s already up to her eyeballs in debt. This will ruin her financially, does she have any recourse?



Dear Helen,

It is no wonder that medical debt is one of the biggest drivers of bankruptcy.

The letter appears legitimate and North Carolina does follow the Doctrine of Necessaries. “The doctrine was a well-established legal principle in the 1700s and held that a husband has a duty to provide for the necessary expenses of his wife and child. North Carolina follows this rule today but applies it on a gender-neutral basis. Thus, a wife can also be held responsible for the costs of her husband’s “necessaries.” – Source

If the husband had medical insurance I would suggest she review her hospital statements and make sure all the bills were submitted for the insurance company to pay what they will.

Since I don’t know the size of the bill or the equity in the house, I would suggest you take your friend to meet with a great bankruptcy attorney and take a look probably at a Chapter 13 bankruptcy to prevent the loss of her house and the repayment of what she can afford over three to five years.

The situation is painful, tragic, frightening, and far too common.

You may also want to talk to an attorney who is licensed in North Carolina to understand what the current law is in the state. I’m not a lawyer so I can’t provide you with legal advice.

READ  Rachel is in Medical Debt, Was Sued And Lost. What's Next?

But others have faced the same horrible reality. Read If your spouse dies, you have to pay their medical debt, little-known state law says.

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About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.


  • If there was a health plan, the widow needs to make sure her attorney is knowledgeable about hospital and doctor/other medical provider billing practices. In many states, “balance billing” is unlawful. Balance billing is where the medical provider or hospital seeks to recover more than what the health insurance plan pays.

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