Is a wife liable for her deceased husband’s debts in a non-community property state?

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Is a wife liable for her deceased husband’s debts in a non-community property state?

I became a widow in a communiy property state 2 years ago; I was left with substantial debt. As a resul I filed a Chapter 7. I’m now hesitant to re-marry because of the risk of incurring a husband’s debt should he pass away. This especially concerns me since I am now ineligible to file bankruptcy again for 6+ years. From what I have read, in a non-community property state I should only be responsible for debt I “co-sign” for. Am I correctly understanding this? Any advice would be greatly appreciated as this is the only thing holding me back from getting married again.

Asked on October 6, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Georgia

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

A surviving spouse is only liable for their deceased spouse's debts if: they live in a community property state; they agree to be responsible (e.g. they co-sign on a loan); or they live in a state that follows the common law "Doctrine of Necessities" (or a codified version of it).

Under this doctrine, a surviving spouse can be held liable for debts that their deceased spouse incurred that were necessary for the maintenance of the marital household; medical debts would be an example.

Absent the above exceptions, you would not be legally held liable for your spouse's debt. To find the specific law as applied in your state, you should contact an attorney in your area.


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