My spouse has medical debt. Am responsible for paying that debt?

Probably, yes. Normally you are not liable for the personal debts of your spouse. However, exceptions to this general rule are that you are liable for reasonable and necessary medical treatment, and for debts whenever you both benefitted from the goods or services. 

When a person dies, all of that person’s property goes into his or her estate. Then all of the debts of the deceased must be paid out of the estate, to the extent there are assets in the estate to cover them. After the debts are paid, the remaining property is distributed according to the will, if there is one, or according to intestate succession. If you and your spouse own all your property jointly, then the property may go directly to you when your spouse dies. If this happens, then the property generally does not have to be used to pay the debts. 

But if your spouse dies with medical bills, the hospital or doctor can make you pay if your spouse’s estate cannot. Even though you did not sign any agreement to pay, you may still be held responsible. 

If you cannot afford to pay the medical bills there may be other ways to get them covered. Your spouse may have qualified for Medicaid. Even if your spouse is deceased, Medicaid can look back for a period of 90 days to see if your spouse was eligible at his or her death. You may be able to obtain Medicaid coverage for your spouse after he or she has died. Be advised that, because of the limited look-back period, you should promptly apply for Medicaid at your local DHHR office.  

Also, hospitals grant charity care to some patients who cannot pay for their medical expenses. However, a condition of charity care is that you must have been denied Medicaid. 

For more information, see: W. Va. Code § 48-29-303 (2015).