Nursing home bills after a parent passes away

Anyone have any experience dealing with a parent’s nursing home bills after they have passed away?

My mother passed away at the end of last year. The last four and a half months of her life were spent in a nursing home after a fall that severely injured her. She really didn’t have any assets, no car, no house, no property. She lived with my brother on a property that me and my brother jointly hold the deed to. Her only asset was her checking account where her social security check was deposited. The nursing home tried to get her signed up for Medicaid to cover their costs. but we finally just got word that was denied – the balance in her account was over $2K when she was admitted. Only over by a couple hundred bucks, but $2K is the bright line. The balance in that account rose after her fall because all her meds, etc. were being administered and billed through the nursing home. We paid the nursing home a couple of times out of that account (my brother and I both signatories on it) for what they calculated would be the difference in what Medicare would pay and the bill. Mom had a life insurance policy that didn’t fully cover the cost of her funeral. So we paid the overage from that account as well. Closed the account withdrawing the last few hundred dollars she had in it, and basically putting that money in a safety deposit box.

So now the bill is coming to her, care of me, from the nursing home. I’m wondering what to do now. Do I pay what was left in that account toward the bill and say, that’s all there was, the estate is now insolvent? Do I get a lawyer? Do I tell them to pound sand?

Not technically looking for legal advice, just wondering how other people proceeded in similar circumstances and what I should expect going down different pathways. This is Georgia, FYI and we do have a really old filial responsibility law on the books that specifies paying the “county” back for care.


It does sound like lawyer territory. Check and see what type of “senior assistance” is available in your county. Some attorneys provide legal help to seniors at no to little cost. You might be able to get the information you need from just a brief chat.

You and your brother are mostly interested, I’m sure, in protecting your own assets, like the property where she lived.

It’s a shame you couldn’t have taken some money out of that checking account before the Medicaid application was done.

I’m very sorry over the loss of your mom.

Not my bailiwick, but I don’t see what the nursing home could go after other than that few hundo in the security box.

I don’t know that you need to rush to do anything. And I wouldn’t rush to give the few hundred $ to the nursing home. Probably won’t happen, but some other party might come out of the woodwork with a superior claim.

If there is no will, the estate will have to be probated. (Yeah, a waste of time and effort for a few hundred.) But if the nursing home wants the money, you might as well make them take proper legal steps.

You and your brother might be entitled to expenses for administering the estate. Could easily amount to a few hundred, leaving nothing to the nursing home. Even consulting w/ a lawyer and having them write a letter could eat up the estate. And you shouldn’t have to pay for that.

If you wanted to give the money to the nursing home (which sounds reasonable), you’d want them to give you a release, saying they accept it as payment in full.

You should probably find some way to talk to someone with some experience in GA estate law. Maybe the local bar association can direct you to a free legal services organization.

But, as a general matter, you could just let the money sit in the bank and let any creditors do whatever it takes to get it. No reason for you to go to any lengths to give it to them.

Since you and brother are on the bank acct, I’m not even sure it is your mom’s estate, and that the home has any claim to it. It could very well be your and your brother’s. But I wouldn’t be in a rush to get into any in depth conversation w/ the home.

I’ve got ZERO experience w/ GA law, but can’t imagine you or your brother would be liable for her debts. I’m assuming you didn’t sign anything with the home saying you would be liable.

Good luck.

I am not a lawyer and definitely not yours.

At the risk of someone showing up and telling me I am an idiot, I’ll give my two cents.

Debts and obligations are not transferable after death, so unless you signed something with the nursing home guaranteeing payment, you shouldn’t need to worry about paying anything from your own assets.

The estate, on the other hand, is liable for debts. So the money from her account would normally first go to any debts rather than to your safety deposit box.

Personally, I’d have a chat with an attorney.

Was she on hospice at the end of her life? They cannot bill.

Find a lawyer with some experience in end-of-life issues/estate planning/etc. and pay said lawyer for a half and hour/hour consultation about this situation. This doesn’t have to cost a fortune and could be money well spent.

After my spouse died I did just that, even though the situation was a lot less complicated than that, to make sure I had all the legal bits covered and the peace of mind alone made it worth every penny.

Taking money out of an account solely to qualify for Medicaid is considered illegal. The authorities can audit the account activity for up to five years prior to the application looking for just that sort of thing. I’m not saying people don’t do it, or don’t get away with it, but there are definite risks to attempting that.

But note this was only $200 so it would never be noticed.

Yeah - you’ve got at least a couple of different questions:
-What does the law require?
-What ought you do?
-What can you get away with?

Obviously, you need to talk to an attorney to get a real answer, but it seems to me that the nursing home has a legal and moral claim on whatever was in the account in her name at the time of her death, unless there’s some legal provision that funeral expenses can be paid out of an estate before debtors are.

Sorry for your loss.

Are there other debtors, though? The nursing home might not be first in line.

I have a little experience with this and my FIL, albeit I’m in Canada and the nursing home was very reasonable.

You haven’t stated what are the bills for? For what period? For how much?
Did your mother have a will and name an executor(s)?

As others have said, they would have a legitimate claim on any remaining funds left in her estate, possibly before the funeral costs. While you can’t inherit debt, the beneficiary would be responsible for any outstanding debt up to the amount remaining in her estate.

You really only have 2 courses of action.

1.) Contact them and attempt to resolve the issue. They may forgive the debt or settle on a lesser amount.


2.) Ignore the bill. They will either write off the debt or pursue it in civil court and a judge will rule on it. Make sure you keep all records and paperwork.

Sure. They have a claim, but maybe not the only claim. Pretty sure the funeral provider doesn’t have a claim, though, and OP will likely have to reimburse the estate for whatever was paid to them.

We are dealing with this right now with my father-in-law. He makes too much money through Railroad Retirement, but has run out of money to pay $9000 a month to the nursing home. We prepaid his funeral a few months ago and had to set up a Qualified Income Trust to put the excess money in a different account in order to qualify for Medicaid. The balance in his main checking account is now below the $2000 threshold and has to stay that way before the end of each month. He still has his Medicare supplement insurance which is taken directly from his main checking account and we pay for his prescriptions out of that account, too.

Sounds like you had some bad advice. Ohio contracts with Medicaid Done Right to set this up. When he passes, the money in the Qualified Income Trust goes to the state.

Non-lawyer guess is that the nursing home had prior claim on the assets before the funeral home. The contract with the funeral is usually with the survivors not the estate. A lawyer in your state is the best option.