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

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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

Answers:

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

Answered 10 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. 


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