Am I Responsible for My Husband's Debts at Death?

Written by cindi pearce
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Am I Responsible for My Husband's Debts at Death?
Responsibility for a dead husband's debts depends on the state and the circumstances. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

If your husband's debt is a federal student loan, it is forgiven upon his death and you are not responsible for it. You might or might not be responsible for the rest of his debts. This is determined by the laws of the state in which you live in.

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Before the decedent's assets can be transferred, his debts must be paid by the executor of the will. If a person dies and doesn't have a will, this is called dying intestate, and someone will be appointed by the court to pay off the dead person's debts and distribute his assets if there are any.

Insolvency; Community Property States

When there isn't any money, the estate is considered insolvent, and creditors have no legal right to collect payment from the wife or any of the decedent's family members. However, if you live in a community property state, the situation becomes more complicated. There the decedent's debt is considered a community debt, and the widow is responsible for repaying that debt. Consult with an attorney to find out exactly what the community debt laws are in your community property, state because each state has different laws. Community debt states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

Prior Debt

If your husband was in debt before you married, and if you are not named on this account with him, you shouldn't be responsible for his debt after his death, according to However, if your husband left an estate, his creditors may try to collect what is owed to them from the estate's assets.

Medical Bills

If your husband incurred medical debts before dying, you might or might not be responsible. In New Jersey, for example, a spouse is required to provide "necessaries" for the other spouse as long as they are living together as husband and wife. Therefore, in New Jersey a woman would be responsible for her dead husband's medical bills if they were living together when the medical bills were incurred, according to However, a creditor must seek recompense from the income and the property of the person who incurred the debt before seeking payment from the surviving spouse.

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