Estate Laws on Parents' Medical Bills in Illinois

By John Cromwell

When your parents die, they may leave behind unpaid medical bills. In Illinois, the deceased parent’s estate is generally responsible for paying off those liabilities. The parent’s probate estate is composed of the assets she solely owned at the end of her life, such as real estate titled in her name or personal financial accounts. However, there are circumstances under Illinois law where people, and not just the estate, have a financial responsibility to pay the outstanding medical liabilities.

Priority of Probate Claims

Some estates’ assets are insufficient to cover the decedent’s debts. In that case, Illinois has a system that groups the debts into certain classes. The debts are then paid off by group. Only when a group of debts are entirely paid off can an estate pay the next group of debts. In Illinois, medical expenses are the last debts to be paid for by the estate. Funeral expenses, back taxes and fees, funds due to employees, and awards to your parent’s surviving spouse and to her children are all paid by the estate prior to it settling medical expenses.

Responsibilities of Spouse

If your deceased parent’s spouse survives, he is personally responsible for the deceased’s medical debts. Under the Family Expense Act, spouses are both responsible for the family expenses that either one incurs. What constitutes a “family expense” has been debated in Illinois courts. However, it is widely agreed that medical expenses of either spouse constitutes a family expense and therefore both spouses are liable.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Responsibilities of Children

While the Illinois Family Expense Act makes spouses liable for each other’s medical expenses, it does not make children liable for their parent’s medical expenses. Children may generally be liable for their parent’s medical expenses only if they promised to pay the debt as a co-signer. To qualify as a co-signer, the child must sign the relevant medical billing forms as well as an “Explanation of Guarantor’s Obligation.”

Trust Property

As part of their estate planning, many parents place property in a trust as a means to ensure that their assets are quickly distributed to their children when they pass on. In Illinois, trust assets are excluded from the decedent’s probate estate. When the decedent dies, all assets in the trust she created are protected from the decedent’s creditors, including a hospital or doctor. They cannot sue to obtain the trust assets to settle what is owed.

Fraudulent Transfers

If your parent gave you valuable property shortly before her death, and her estate cannot pay its medical debts, the doctor or hospital may sue. These creditors can claim that the transfer was fraudulent. If the parent made the transfer with the intent to defraud her creditors or with the knowledge that she lacked the resources to pay off her debts, under Illinois law a court could invalidate the transfer with the property going back to the parent’s estate. That property would then be used to pay off any remaining debts. As a result, creditors may scrutinize property transfers to children that happened immediately prior to the parent’s death.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Who Is Responsible for Children's Medical Coverage in Divorce in Ohio?

References

Resources

Related articles

How to Word a Will When You Have a Handicapped Child

Parents who have special needs children not only have to care for the child during their lifetime, the parents must also ensure that these children receive care after they die. For many parents, this can mean making certain that the child has enough funds to cover medical care for his entire life. While the task may seem daunting, a properly worded will can ensure that your child gets the care he needs after you are gone. Further, the act of writing your will can help you with the financial planning aspect of your child's care by helping you think about what funds your child will need for long-term care.

Illinois Laws on Child Support of Disabled Children

In Illinois, as in all states, parents are responsible for financially supporting their children. This is true even when the parents were married and are now divorced. Typically, the parent ordered to pay child support must pay until the child turns 18. However, if the child is disabled, either or both parents may be required to continue supporting the child after that time.

Ways to Settle an Estate

You've lost a loved one, and you're still dealing with the emotional impact. Unfortunately, that's not all you have to deal with. Unless the deceased had no possessions or debts, the final affairs of the estate must be settled. How that happens depends on what arrangements he made in advance, if any. Prior arrangements to handle estates may be made with an attorney, independently, or by using an online document service.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Do Children of Divorced Parents Have Rights to Inherit Real Estate?

Divorced parents can stay close to their kids, even if the other spouse has custody, but it doesn't always happen. A ...

The Rights of Children of a Deceased Person

Generally, a deceased parent has no obligation to leave property to her children. In fact, nearly every state allows a ...

Medical Power of Attorney for Child Care

A medical power of attorney for child care is used to give another person the legal right to make medical decisions on ...

The Rules of Inheritance

The rules of inheritance are set according to state law. Each state has its own statutes that explain which relatives ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED