Who is responsible for debt of deceased spouse?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Who is responsible for debt of deceased spouse?

My mother-in-law passed away a month ago. She had $10K in debt. My father-in-law is still living and the only assets they have were joint owned (bank account and condo in PA). My father-in-law was not a joint owner on the credit card, he was only an authorized signer. Is he responsible for the $10K in debt? They both had Wills and her’s states that her assets pass to him upon her death.

Asked on August 27, 2010 under Estate Planning, Pennsylvania

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Generally, one spouse is not obligated to pay the bills of the other spouse. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. If you live in a community property state, you would typically bear responsibility for such a debt (IL is not such a state). The second exception would be if you signed or in some other way agreed to be legally bound for re-payments on the debt (this is true no matter what state that you live in). The last exception falls under something called the "doctrine of necessities". While many states no longer follow it, some states have actually made it statutory law. Under the doctrine, one spouse is liable for the "necessary" expenses incurred by the other spouse during marriage. This holds true for any debt but particularly for medical bills which are deemed to almost always be “necessary”.

 Also, in the case of a deceased spouse, even in a situation that did not fall into one of the above exceptions, the deceased’s estate would still be liable for repayment; therefore, indirectly as surviving spouse could be affected financially.


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 AttorneyPages.com 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.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption