Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

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pennywise
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Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by pennywise » Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:03 am

We inherited a friend's estate when he died in September 2013. Probate was closed in 2014 with all assets transferred to us including his home which we currently use as a rental property.

My friend was ill for quite awhile and had no medical insurance, although he received care at greatly reduced rates from a surgeon at a public hospital.

I just opened a bill from that public hospital addressed to my dead friend and sent to his/now our house. The hospital is billing 'him' $82,017.00!

Of course I immediately called the lawyer who handled the probate and he had me send the invoice. I expect I'll hear back from them soon but wanted to ask the general question: can the hospital come after me, my husband or the property? We live in Florida if that matters.

Anecdotally I've always assumed that this isn't possible since the debt was not ours and the probate process was followed including posting a public notice to debtors. Still, interested in anyone else's experience.

I was actually at the house to meet new tenants for a walk through when I opened the collection notice. Quite a bracing moment there, not every day one gets a bill for $80K especially trying to collect from a guy who's been dead for almost 6 years. I guess I could respond to them that obviously their care wasn't that great :wink: (my friend was a smart aleck who would have laughed at that comment BTW)

renue74
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by renue74 » Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:33 am

If probate was done properly (legal notices in newspaper, consideration given to all creditors in the process, probate closed properly, etc.), then the hospital had it's chance to bill and didn't. In my state, they would have no grounds to receive collections. But maybe in your state it's different.

Hospitals will try many things. My wife once had a "great, great aunt" who had prater willy's syndrome. She was a ward of the state and lived in state homes for most of her life. My wife was in essence her caretaker, though never legally bound. After her death, the last nursing home who cared for her send many bills to my wife because that was the only contact person on record. They had no legal grounds for doing so, but that didn't stop accounting people from printing and invoice and mailing it.

carolinaman
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by carolinaman » Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:35 am

Hopefully your lawyer will offer sound advice but my guess is the hospital is sending bill way too late to collect anything. Our attorney advised me, as executor of my mother's estate, to keep the estate active for a year after her death, just in case there were any late bills. I am not sure what the exact cutoff should be but 6 years has got to be way beyond the statute of limitations.

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RickBoglehead
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by RickBoglehead » Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:38 am

As stated, if probate was done by the rules, once closed they get nothing.
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bsteiner
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by bsteiner » Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:12 am

It varies from state to state.

In New York, the executor is protected from personal liability to unknown creditors after 7 months have passed from when he/she was appointed as executor. However, the creditor's claim is still good until the statute of limitations would otherwise expire, generally after 6 years, and the creditor may collect from the beneficiaries (up to the amount a beneficiary received).

In some states, there's a shorter time period for creditors, which may vary depending on whether the creditor was known or unknown and whether the executors notified the creditor.

The lawyer who handled the estate should know how it works in the applicable state.

InMyDreams
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by InMyDreams » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:43 am

I believe some states also have regulations requiring timely billing. But I'm guessing this hospital is not in one of those states or they wouldn't be trying this.

You said no insurance - not even Medicare without supplement?

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dm200
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by dm200 » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:48 am

Wow! Over $80,000 - years later.

Seems to me worth engaging an experienced estate attorney.

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bottlecap
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by bottlecap » Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:49 am

The internet says the statute of limitations on medical bills is 5 years in Florida (4 for an oral contract).

Seems like this is likely uncollectible.

JT

retiringwhen
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by retiringwhen » Tue Apr 30, 2019 3:09 pm

In a non-estate situation, I got a bill for services from last month combined with a set of charges from over 1 year ago to up to 3 years ago. The service provider lost a contract with my Primary Care provider and they decided to bill things that were somehow not billed earlier.

I called them up and just laughed at them and said. I will pay anything one year or less and if they send me another bill for the old stuff, I would file a formal complaint with the state medical oversight agency (forget the name.) My reading was that NJ has a requirement to bill for services within 12 mos.

They walked away without further complaint (I did pay the one month old bill which represented less than 10% of the original bill). The actionable point for you the OP is that sometimes they just try to see if you will bend and pay the bill. Make sure you know the laws for your state and act on it, don't get bullied.

Thesaints
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by Thesaints » Tue Apr 30, 2019 3:12 pm

dm200 wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 9:48 am
Wow! Over $80,000 - years later.
Interests, mostly...

fru-gal
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by fru-gal » Tue Apr 30, 2019 4:53 pm

I was an executor. If I were in your situation I wouldn't even have called the attorney, just contacted the billing department about the statute of limitations. I would probably follow up with a registered letter. Only if they started to play hard ball would I have had the attorney write them a letter.

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pennywise
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by pennywise » Tue Apr 30, 2019 5:32 pm

fru-gal wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 4:53 pm
I was an executor. If I were in your situation I wouldn't even have called the attorney, just contacted the billing department about the statute of limitations. I would probably follow up with a registered letter. Only if they started to play hard ball would I have had the attorney write them a letter.
To my knowledge no letter has been written yet; I only called them yesterday and the attorney is on vacation, although the paralegal forwarded my call through and I spoke briefly to him.

I worry that any contact directly from me could result in my inadvertently saying something that would be damaging such as perhaps 'resetting' the deadline for payment from the estate. So I called the probate attorney who handled the inheritance; he is VERY experienced and he's one of those crusty veteran lawyers who has seen it all and dealt with it all.

I'd rather have him run interference than start down any road that involves me tangling with a government collection agency for a nearly six figure debt owed by a dead man that is 5+ years old and could result in a remote but possible financial obligation levied on us. No, I'd rather a lawyer step up to the plate on this one!

My primary worry is/was that the hospital can try to put a lien on the house which is the only remaining asset in the estate we inherited. Sounds like they can't do that at this point and tomorrow I will check in again to get the lawyer's feedback.

Thanks for the responses. I will update on the situation once I know the outcome which hopefully is nothing!

SimonJester
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by SimonJester » Tue Apr 30, 2019 6:31 pm

First all of this is state specific...

Here is my take, if the bill was delivered to the name of the deceased and not estate of deceased, I would file it in the trash can. Once the estate has been closed out by the courts and you discharged as executor / personal representative you no longer have any legal authority nor legal obligation to act. If they sent a second bill I would call their collections department and inform them the person is deceased and to stop sending bills.

Let them figure out there was an estate and their time to file a claim was past. Why do their legal work for them.

Now if the bill even came in the name of the estate, then you need to point out the closure of the estate and statute of limitations....

In my state creditors have at most 12 months to submit a claim, but can be as soon as 60 days from notification or they are forever barred..
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Murgatroyd
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by Murgatroyd » Wed May 01, 2019 10:33 am

pennywise wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 5:32 pm
fru-gal wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 4:53 pm
I was an executor. If I were in your situation I wouldn't even have called the attorney, just contacted the billing department about the statute of limitations. I would probably follow up with a registered letter. Only if they started to play hard ball would I have had the attorney write them a letter.
To my knowledge no letter has been written yet; I only called them yesterday and the attorney is on vacation, although the paralegal forwarded my call through and I spoke briefly to him.

I worry that any contact directly from me could result in my inadvertently saying something that would be damaging such as perhaps 'resetting' the deadline for payment from the estate. So I called the probate attorney who handled the inheritance; he is VERY experienced and he's one of those crusty veteran lawyers who has seen it all and dealt with it all.

I'd rather have him run interference than start down any road that involves me tangling with a government collection agency for a nearly six figure debt owed by a dead man that is 5+ years old and could result in a remote but possible financial obligation levied on us. No, I'd rather a lawyer step up to the plate on this one!

My primary worry is/was that the hospital can try to put a lien on the house which is the only remaining asset in the estate we inherited. Sounds like they can't do that at this point and tomorrow I will check in again to get the lawyer's feedback.

Thanks for the responses. I will update on the situation once I know the outcome which hopefully is nothing!
This late billing smells like an "Accounts Receivable recovery audit." These have become popular with large companies. A third party comes in and scours the old receivable and billings records for a percent of whatever is "found." I worked for a company that hired one of these pirates. Much of what is done is just plain wrong. And hard to undo. Because whoever hired them wants to be a hero. Just saying.

One way or the other, my 2 cents is you are taking the right approach for all the right reasons.

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8foot7
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by 8foot7 » Wed May 01, 2019 10:39 am

Who is the bill addressed to? The deceased? Or the estate?

After the estate is closed you no longer have any legal authority to deal with matters of the deceased or the estate. In many states it would then be up to the creditor to re-open the estate, petition to be appointed executor, and then find out if there were any remaining assets that had not been properly distributed. It seems like New York offers a way to recover from beneficiaries, although that may be one of those "even if there's a way, it's not worth the cost" kinds of things.

So even as much as you might want to try to deal with this, I would first operate under the assumption that the law prevents you from doing so because you were rightfully discharged as executor/trix.

If the bill was sent to the deceased and not the estate, I might go so far as to send the original bill back along with a copy of the death certificate but otherwise I would simply trash any further bills. (This is what we've done with an AT&T bill from my deceased MIL, who in the past week sent a notice they were going to collections over an unpaid Internet bill from 2017. We have already informed them she died a few weeks after her death and that they could file a claim, and then we notified them that the estate was closed, and they don't appear to read our notes.)

If the bill was sent to the estate, I'd simply send a note that says estate closed with judge's approval on this date and all assets were properly and timely distributed. Let them fight it out from there if they want.

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pennywise
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by pennywise » Thu May 02, 2019 6:34 am

Follow up:

I received a copy yesterday of a certified letter the attorney sent to the county collections office, in which he informed them that the person who incurred the debt is dead, probate has been completed and the statute of limitations for creditors has passed. He also included a letter his office sent to the hospital during probate in which he made the required legal inquiry as to outstanding debt owed by the estate, to which no reply was received--the letter was sent in spring 2014 and evidently the limit to reopen debt collection efforts such as this medical bill is 2 years.

So looks like I did the right thing. I doubt the lawyer will bill us; after the probate of this estate we've worked with him subsequently several times on will/estate planning. If he does, I am happy to pay for the peace of mind that I have knowing he did everything correctly to protect us from problems exactly like getting a surprise $82,000 bill in the mail 6 years after inheriting the estate!

As for why now, I assume it is exactly as stated upthread; either a third party agency or a clerk or a autoprogram assigned to ferret outstanding bills came across this one and spit out a notice.

Regardless as the saying goes nobody likes a lawyer till you need a lawyer :D . Glad I had mine for this one!

bryanm
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by bryanm » Thu May 02, 2019 10:24 am

pennywise wrote:
Thu May 02, 2019 6:34 am
Follow up:

I received a copy yesterday of a certified letter the attorney sent to the county collections office, in which he informed them that the person who incurred the debt is dead, probate has been completed and the statute of limitations for creditors has passed. He also included a letter his office sent to the hospital during probate in which he made the required legal inquiry as to outstanding debt owed by the estate, to which no reply was received--the letter was sent in spring 2014 and evidently the limit to reopen debt collection efforts such as this medical bill is 2 years.

So looks like I did the right thing. I doubt the lawyer will bill us; after the probate of this estate we've worked with him subsequently several times on will/estate planning. If he does, I am happy to pay for the peace of mind that I have knowing he did everything correctly to protect us from problems exactly like getting a surprise $82,000 bill in the mail 6 years after inheriting the estate!

As for why now, I assume it is exactly as stated upthread; either a third party agency or a clerk or a autoprogram assigned to ferret outstanding bills came across this one and spit out a notice.

Regardless as the saying goes nobody likes a lawyer till you need a lawyer :D . Glad I had mine for this one!
This warms my lawyerly heart. Glad it worked out!

Nearly A Moose
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Re: Very Delayed Posthumous Bill

Post by Nearly A Moose » Thu May 02, 2019 10:59 pm

bryanm wrote:
Thu May 02, 2019 10:24 am
pennywise wrote:
Thu May 02, 2019 6:34 am
Follow up:

I received a copy yesterday of a certified letter the attorney sent to the county collections office, in which he informed them that the person who incurred the debt is dead, probate has been completed and the statute of limitations for creditors has passed. He also included a letter his office sent to the hospital during probate in which he made the required legal inquiry as to outstanding debt owed by the estate, to which no reply was received--the letter was sent in spring 2014 and evidently the limit to reopen debt collection efforts such as this medical bill is 2 years.

So looks like I did the right thing. I doubt the lawyer will bill us; after the probate of this estate we've worked with him subsequently several times on will/estate planning. If he does, I am happy to pay for the peace of mind that I have knowing he did everything correctly to protect us from problems exactly like getting a surprise $82,000 bill in the mail 6 years after inheriting the estate!

As for why now, I assume it is exactly as stated upthread; either a third party agency or a clerk or a autoprogram assigned to ferret outstanding bills came across this one and spit out a notice.

Regardless as the saying goes nobody likes a lawyer till you need a lawyer :D . Glad I had mine for this one!
This warms my lawyerly heart. Glad it worked out!
+1 :D
Pardon typos, I'm probably using my fat thumbs on a tiny phone.

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