Will my son be responsible for my medical bills when I die?

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Q. I’ve been divorced for 40 years. I’m retired now. I have a few outstanding medical bills that I am currently paying on. If I die before they are paid off, who would be responsible? I do not own anything other than what goes in the bank on a monthly basis and back out again by the end of the month. I have one child who is 50 years old. Would he be responsible?
— Planning

A. You do not need to put this on the worry list.

If you were to die before these bills are paid off, your child would not be responsible for paying them.

The debt would be charged against your estate, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with AXA Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

If there are no resources in the estate to pay them, the debt will need to be written off by the medical facility, she said.

“Debts would need to be paid in full before any money is given to your child or other heirs,” she said. “If your estate has more debt than assets, your estate is deemed to be insolvent.”

The creditor would look to see if you own a home, car or another asset that could be sold off for eventual payment, she said.

Just note that there are a few exceptions.

“If your child co-signed on your medical debt, then he/she would be liable,” D’Agostini said. “Some states such as New Jersey have filial responsibility laws that hold adult children financially responsible for their parents if they are not able to support themselves. These are rarely enforced, however.”

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This story was originally published on Jan. 25, 2021.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.