Generally speaking, any outstanding debts you owe, including medical bills, can file a claim against your estate in the event of your death. For example, if you pass away leaving a large sum of money and a property to your heirs, the executor of your estate has a duty to pay any creditors that make a legitimate claim against your estate before distributing your assets to your heirs. The process in which your estate goes through probate and how creditors are allowed to file claims is governed by your state law, and can vary significantly from state to state. For example, many states allow all assets to pass to a surviving spouse without going through probate, with all claims deferred until the death of the surviving spouse.
Given the complexity of estate law, and the negative consequences that can result from improper planning, I strongly encourage you to consult with a lawyer in your state who has experience in wills, estates, and estate planning. An attorney should be able to tell you how your state’s laws may affect any claims your creditors may have against your estate, and can also help create a strategy to protect your assets to the maximum extent from creditors and taxes.
For general information regarding the preparation of a will and planning your estate, you may want to visit www.nolo.com. However, while this information can be helpful, general advice such as that offered by Nolo is no substitute for the professional guidance of an attorney who is familiar with your financial situation.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of retaining a qualified attorney to guide you through the estate planning process; estate law is not something a laymen should navigate without professional assistance. I wish you the best of luck in your efforts to protect your estate, and hope the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.