Hello, this is Jeff Kelly and Today is August the 13th 2020. And today I want to talk about, are you legally liable for your spouse’s medical bills just by virtue of the fact that you’re married? And in Georgia as a general rule, the answer to this question is no. Now, this question usually arises when one spouse has suffered an extreme trauma traumatic event, like COVID-19, Corona hospitalization, cancer, diabetes, heart attack, or some other health catastrophe that forces a person to accumulate a large amount of medical debt.
Earlier this year, I met with an elderly lady who for purposes of this illustration, we’re going to call her Marjorie Okay, now Marjorie, was about five feet tall, about 95 pounds, married to the same husband for over like 40 years. Supersweet lady worked so hard. And at one point in her life, she had probably at least $300,000 saved up in her 401k when her husband passed away, he had an insurance policy. But what neither one of them ever anticipated, was just the exorbitant through the roof cost of medical treatment. And he had a huge, long battle with cancer and ended up leaving behind this overwhelming mountain of debt. Now what did the sweet lady do? She did honestly what most people do, and she made payments for years and years, until there was no more money left from the 401k and no more money from the life insurance proceeds. This is tragic and horrible on so many levels. Because all of that life insurance and all of that 401k money should have been protected from her husband’s medical bills, she was not legally obligated to make those payments.
We see this happen a lot and so don’t feel bad if it’s you because you’re just like everybody else if if you’ve done this, but, you know, most people delay talking to a bankruptcy attorney until like way after they need to, which is, you know, again, double ironic and tragic because we offer a free consultation, it doesn’t cost anything to come talk to us if at any point. I’ve been practicing consumer bankruptcy for over 22 years And believe me, I have seen it all. You know, again, you would not believe how many people will needlessly spend their way into bankruptcy trying to pay somebody else’s bills that they’re not legally liable for. So what should a person do? What in the perfect world you lose your spouse, somebody you love your, your your other half? What a terrible traumatic event to go through. And as a consequence of the emotional toll, it’s also the absolute worst time to make major financial decisions.
So step one, I think everybody should meet with a wills and estates attorney. And, you know, I don’t practice in this area, but I know many great attorneys around here who do and I am happy to help you find one give me a call 7708818449. I’ll help you if you’re in the situation. And the purpose of meeting with an estate attorney is to determine you know whether or not the estate needs to be probated, are there any assets that do need to be used to pay any leftover medical bills. Is there an estate at all? Very important to get those questions answered. As soon as somebody passes away, was there a will?
The next step, I think, is that people should meet with a financial planner and plan out what what does the future look like without this other spouse. And then worst case scenario, there’s just a ton of debt that’s left and it’s not going anywhere. I think you need to meet with a bankruptcy attorney, and again, is a free consultation. And what we would do is we would sit down with you and go over your income go over your budget, and we would take a good hard look at a at coming up with a plan for the future. If you’ve got money in 401k, leave it there. If you have just inherited some life insurance money, don’t touch it. Meet with us first. You know, before you start throwing it towards debt. Again, it’s a free consultation. Why not take advantage of this? If you don’t, you could end up getting suckered by debt collectors. And these debt collectors are extremely skilled at guilting people into paying debts that they legally otherwise don’t have to, particularly medical bills where the surviving spouse has no legal liability. Debt collectors also have this amazing supernatural ability to call right after our life insurance check hit your mailbox. So again, in most cases, life insurance proceeds are not exposed to a deceased spouse’s debts, but again, meet with an estate planning attorney and get answers to those questions for sure.
So what’s the magic question to ask when Somebody says, Hey, you owe me money. That magic question is, can you show me a contract where I signed and agreed to be liable for this debt, if they cannot produce any proof of your signature on a guarantee, you are not liable in the state of Georgia. Right now with all this COVID-19 mess going on, we are conducting virtual appointments. I do some live ones as well. I mean, if you really want to, but most people are opting for the virtual appointment, we can do it over the phone. And I also like to use this program called zoom. I’ve got a camera hooked up at my desk so you can see me talk if you want. We can do a computer screen share if we need to. The worst thing that you can do is to just ignore the problem. Don’t do that. Give me a call. It’s free. It won’t cost you anything. The problem is not going to go away by itself. So please give me Call 7708818449. I’ve also written a book on chapter 13 and chapter 7 and I want you to get a free copy. So go to my website www.kellycanhelp.com. And you can download a copy for free. If you live in the state of Georgia. I’ll mail you a hardcopy if while supplies last. Again, call us 7708818449. I hope you have a great day. Thank you for tuning in. Bye-bye.