My Spouse Died, Am I Liable for his/her Debts?

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Bellomo & Associates

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Jun 30, 2023

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Pennsylvania - South Central PA

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As estate planning and elder law attorneys, we receive this question all of the time. As a general rule of thumb, the answer is no, you are not liable for the debts of another individual. However, there are some exceptions to that general rule, which is why it is essential to seek professional advice when a loved one passes, especially a spouse who had debt in his or her name alone.

For example, there are a few situations where a spouse would be liable for the debt of a spouse, and they are a few of the following:

1.  If a spouse co-signs on a loan for a spouse, then they also own the debt.

2.  If a spouse is a joint account holder of a credit card with their spouse, then they are also liable for the credit card as a joint owner.

3.  If a spouse has jointly owned property, and that property has a liability, then the joint owner would as well.

These exceptions are obviously pretty clear, which all point to the situation where the spouse is either an owner or co-signed for the debt one way or another.

However, in the State of Pennsylvania, there is a doctrine called “The Doctrine of Necessities.” Essentially, it provides that a spouse is liable to provide for the necessities of their spouse. While this is certainly not a doctrine that is used all the time, it is possible that a spouse could be held liable for their spouse’s debt that was incurred prior to death if it is deemed to be a necessity and is deemed that the spouse has a duty to support the other spouse.

Although this is rare, it is definitely something not to overlook and, again, is why we recommended that you seek legal counsel when a spouse passes away to make sure that everything is taken care of properly and that you don’t assume any personal liability for any inadvertent omissions.

Please, if you have any questions or concerns about your financial future should your spouse die, contact us at (717) 844-9218 or fill in our contact us form and we’ll get back to you.

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Bellomo & Associates

Estate Planning 3198 E Market St, York, Pennsylvania, 17402

We Educate so what happened to the Bellomo Family doesn't happen to yours!Our firms mission is to ensure that you and your family never needlessly, painfully suffer. Every team member has a personal story that has brought us here to advocate for you and your family. We want to replace your burden with peace of mind. We have the answers, but more important, we have your back.Bellomo & Associates, LLC advises Individuals and families, business owners, senior citizens, and their families about the estate planning and elder law challenges facing them today. For seniors and their families facing the issues of aging, or for those of any age who wish to protect their familys financial future, we counsel clients and provide solutions on Asset Protection; Specials Needs Trusts; Wills; Trust Design; Medicaid; Estate Planning; Nursing Home Matters; and Estate Administration. For our clients who own businesses, our team assists them with succession planning for their business in conjunction with their estate planning.  We have office locations in York, PA, and Lancaster, PA.We offer FREE workshops!  Our workshops are fun and entertaining ways to learn! We provide you with the information to decide what is right for you. If after attending, you decide we arent the right fit no problem! Youll never feel any pressure from our team.