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Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 102601
Experience:  Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
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I live in North Carolina. My wife died Feb. 2015. I want to

Customer Question

I live in North Carolina. My wife died Feb. 2015. I want to request her medical and psychotherapy records (she committed suicide) but the people who hold these records say I have to be executor of the estate to get them. they have refused to send them to me. There was no will and no assets to file an estate. Any assets were awarded to me by the court via deficiency judgment. Isn't there a law that says the surviving spouse can have them or do I have to file an estate (with no financial assets) to get the records I want. I have been made administrator of the estate (but again, no estate has been filed). what do I do? There must be a statute for this.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note:This is general information and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein, and no attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms.

I am very sorry to hear about your loss.

This falls under HIPAA laws - the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 which creates privacy rights for patients even after their passing. These are medical records, so they fall under HIPAA.

Under HIPAA, a Personal Representative can request records. See HERE. For the deceased, it is the executor or administrator of the estate. I am afraid that there is a law for this, and it states that a registered executor or administrator of the estate can request the records. There is no automatic allowance for a surviving spouse.

Just because there is little/no money in the estate does not mean that no probate is necessary. Probate may be used for more than just to get access to accounts and transfer title - it may be used to act in the deceased's name, and this is exactly what this would be. So yes, probate is required. Once probate is filed, the Executor of the estate gets something called a Letter of Testament/Administration (hereinafter "Letter"). This Letter will allow the Executor (i.e. you) to get the records.

Actually, because her estate is small, one can file for small estate administration which is essentially probate by mail - making much quicker and easier to get those Letters and become the Executor (in HIPPA's eyes, Personal Representative). See HERE. Counsel is recommended but not mandatory.

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Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.

Hello again. This is a courtesy check in to see if you needed anything else in regards ***** ***** question. I am simply touching base. Let me know. Thanks!