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

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 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) 845-5390 or fill in our contact us form and we’ll get back to you.


What’s the Number One Destination to Move To?

Chairs on the lake"Americans are moving in search of cheaper places to live, more jobs, warmer climates and green space."

People are flocking to Oregon, says CNN Money's article, "Oregon is the most popular state to move to."

Oregon leads the list as the top "moving to" destination in 2015 for the third year in a row. This is according to a study of 123,000 moves conducted by United Van Lines. Nearly 70% of the interstate moves in Oregon were people moving to the state, and the number of people moving to Oregon has increased by 10% in the past six years.

The research also showed that five of the ten states with the highest number of inbound movers are west of the Mississippi River, with the tech boom playing a large part in attracting new residents to the West Coast. However, that's just part of it.

With all the people relocating to Oregon, finding a home in the state's largest city has become a more expensive proposition: home prices in Portland have increased by nearly 11% in October from the same time in 2014!

In addition to the Pacific Northwest, the South was also a popular moving destination in 2014, and the state of South Carolina ranked second.

With more and more Baby Boomers getting ready to retire, the number of people getting out of the country's colder climates and into places with warmer weather is increasing. In fact, some states in the Northeast are having a hard time retaining their residents, with New Jersey experiencing the highest number of moves out of the state last year, followed by New York State.

These are the top 10 inbound states for 2015, according to United Van Lines (Moving to…):

  1. Oregon
  2. South Carolina
  3. Vermont
  4. Idaho
  5. North Carolina
  6. Florida
  7. Nevada
  8. District of Columbia
  9. Texas
  10. Washington

And here are the top 10 outbound states for 2015 (Moving from…):

  1. New Jersey
  2. New York
  3. Illinois
  4. Connecticut
  5. Ohio
  6. Kansas
  7. Massachusetts
  8. West Virginia
  9. Mississippi
  10. Maryland

If you are making a move, perhaps to a new retirement destination, let your estate planning attorney know. Changes to your estate documents may be necessary to comply with your destination state's laws.

Reference: CNN Money (January 4, 2016) "Oregon is the most popular state to move to"

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