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Are you responsible for your spouse's end of life care expenses?

Question of the week: Am I responsible for my spouse’s medical expenses, especially if she has a debilitating accident and wants to be kept alive for as long as possible?

The Situation...

Often times couples, when making Advance Directive decisions, may have differing approaches to end of life decisions. The wife may want to be kept alive no matter the situation, whereas her husband may not want to be kept alive using extraordinary means. In this case, the husband asked if he was liable to pay for all of his wife’s medical expenses should she be kept alive for months (or longer), thus depleting him of their savings and other assets.

The Answer….

In Vermont, the spouse is NOT liable for the other spouse’s medical expenses. However, community property states such as CA, TX, AZ and WA, all spouses will be

held liable for the other spouse’s medical expenses.

In addition, some other states recognize the law of “Doctrine of Necessities”, which says that medical expenses for a spouse are “Necessary” expenses and must be paid by the other spouse. Note that Vermont does not recognize this doctrine.

These are great things to figure out before you are faced with the situation. Do you know what your spouse wants for end of life care? Do you have an Advance Directive?


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