Who has the right to get the medical records when a family member dies?

Until the law was changed several years ago, no family member had the right to get the decedent's medical records until an Estate representative had been appointed.  The appointment of an Estate representative is a time-consuming and cumbersome task that requires an attorney.  In many potential cases, the family decides that it is not worth the trouble to have an Estate representative appointed in order to obtain the medical records.

Boy, how things changed! Today, any "distributee" of the decedent's Estate can get the medical records, and there is no longer a requirement that an Estate representative be appointed.  A "distributee" typically includes the surviving spouse and children, under New York's Estate Powers and Trusts law.

When a family member dies, any of the distributees can obtain the decedent's medical records as long as they provide a death certificate.  The new law gives all of the distributees equal ability to obtain the decedent's medical records and the records can be secured within a day or two of the family member's death.

Some personal injury lawyers still think that an Estate representative must be appointed to get the medical records.  Au contraire!  If a physician or hospital tells you that an Estate representative must be appointed before they will release the medical records, they are dead wrong (excuse the pun).  The first step is to ask to speak with the director of the medical records department and if that fails, you should inform the hospital that you intend to report them to the NYS Department of Health for denying access to records that you are rightfully entitled to.  This will get the results that you want.