Can creditors require a surviving spouse to re-pay the signature loans of the deceased spouse?

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Can creditors require a surviving spouse to re-pay the signature loans of the deceased spouse?

The deceased spouse took out the loans without the surviving spouse’s knowledge. The deceased has no property, bank accounts, life insurance and no estate was established to take care of bills, etc. Total of the unsecured debt is about $10,000 spread over 3 creditors.

Asked on September 25, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Hawaii

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The general rule is that one spouse is not liable for another spouse's debts. That in unless they agree to be or they live in a community property state - neither of which exception applies to you. Also, in some states a surviving spouse can be held responsible for medical bills, but again this appears not to apply in your case based on the limited facts presented.

Typically in such a situation, the deceased's estate is legally responsible for repayment of outstanding debts. However, where there are no assets to cover these financial obligations, they are extinguished as a matter of law. In other words, there are legally terminated; the creditors will not be repaid.


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