Is awife liable forher husband’s debts if they were separated/living separate but still married when the husband died?

UPDATED: Jun 14, 2011

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Is awife liable forher husband’s debts if they were separated/living separate but still married when the husband died?

Husband died a few years ago; accumulated a lot of credit card and other debt after we separated. I was not executor of his estate; I was told to stay away from it all. My house in my name only although at one time it was in both names before he signed the deed over. As far as I know all debt he accumulated was in his name only.

Asked on June 14, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Massachusetts


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Generally, one spouse is not obligated for another spouse's debt.  There are, however, 3 exceptions to this.  The first is if you live in a community property state (you do not).  The second would be if you signed or in some other way agreed to be legally bound for re-payments (you do not indicated this in your situation).  The last exception falls under something called the "doctrine of necessaries", wherein a spouse is liable for the "necessary" expenses incurred by the other spouse, including medical bills (this doctrine in not applicable in MA).

Therefore it appears that you are not liable for your late husband's debts.  The only caveat is the house. The timing of the transfer to you may be problematic. At this point you should speak directly to an attorney in your area and go over the details of your case with them. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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