Do you need to pay your spouse’s debts after they die?
It depends on state law.
Nj.com’s recent article entitled “Who has to pay medical bills when a spouse dies?” says that in New Jersey, a creditor may pursue collection against a spouse for an expense incurred by the other spouse for “necessaries.” only where the financial resources of the spouse who incurred the expense are insufficient unless both spouses agreed to pay the debt.
In situations where both spouses incurred the debt or agreed to pay the debt, or one spouse guaranteed the debt of the other spouse, the creditor may go after either or both spouses.
However, if one spouse incurs a medical expense or other expense deemed necessary — including, in some cases, legal fees or clothing — the creditor must first look to the spouse who incurred the expense.
Note that this applies only if the spouse’s assets are insufficient to pay may; the creditor seeks payment from the non-debtor spouse.
It is also essential to know that each spouse holding their assets in separate names doesn’t avoid responsibility for their medical bills if the debtor spouse’s assets are insufficient to pay such bills.
Signing a pre-marital or post-marital agreement, in which each spouse agrees to be responsible for their medical expenses, also doesn’t prevent a creditor from pursuing payment against the non-debtor spouse if the debtor spouse, or the debtor spouse’s estate, cannot pay.
Spouses also may be unable to avoid a creditor seeking reimbursement concerning `necessaries’ merely by separating.
Maryland rejected the common law doctrine of necessaries in 1981 in Condore v. Prince George’s County, 289 Md. 516, 425 A.2d 1011 (1981). Therefore in Maryland, we don’t owe that debt if it is not a joint obligation.
This is one reason for seeking competent legal advice concerning your obligation and responsibilities after losing a spouse.
Reference: nj.com (Aug. 3, 2022) “Who has to pay medical bills when a spouse dies?”