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Family in disbelief after receiving mother's $10K hospital bill 26 years later

JAMESTOWN—We're used to getting bills after going to the dentist, hospital or college, but what if you got one that was more than 20 years old?

It's been a whirlwind for Michelle Thompson and her siblings after they received a bill in her deceased mother's name for almost $10,000 from the North Dakota State Hospital.

A 26-year old bill.

"How can they do this to a family? How can they sit on a bill for 26 years?" Michelle Thompson said.

Michelle Thompson was shocked to receive a bill worth nearly $10,000, a month after her 90-year-old mother, Amelia passed away in 2014.

"I know if my mother received that, she would have paid on it," said Thompson.

Amelia loved children, having 10 of her own, and even adopting three from Spirit Lake while she lived in St. Michael back in the 70's.

This bill, says one of the children, Jackie, received care from the North Dakota State Hospital in 1986, and now that Amelia has died the money must be paid from her remaining estate.

"Hospitals can't do that, just let their bills float around and wait till the person passes away and if they have some land, go after them," said Thompson.

But after some digging, we learned they can.

"Yeah, it can be a long time in between when the medical assistance is actually given, and when the claim is made," said Adam Wogsland, Attorney.

Attorney Adam Wogsland explains it's called estate recovery.

The bill says the state of North Dakota paid for Jackie's hospital visit and now the debt must be repaid.

"Under state law, if medical assistance has been granted and paid out by the estate, the state has the ability to recover that amount," said Wogsland.

It was something Thompson and the rest of her siblings had no idea that it even happened.

"I just think it's wrong is what I think," said Wogsland, "At death that's when the obligation will trigger. Then they have three years, or the state will have three years on what's owed."

Thompson plans on fighting the bill in court if she can.

We have more information on estate recovery, click here.