If you’re married and your spouse passes away, as the surviving spouse, you may be responsible for joint debts during your marriage. This debt would fall under community property law. Some exceptions include gifts to each other and premarital property and debt.
In community property states, the surviving spouse is responsible for repaying their spouse’s debts acquired during the marriage – even if the debt is in their deceased spouse’s name alone. So, for example, if your late spouse has a lot of credit card debt under their name only, you would be responsible for that unpaid debt in a community property state.
Community property states
As mentioned above, some states have community property laws and are known as community property states. Currently, these states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. These laws apply to domestic partners in Washington, Nevada, and California.³
It’s important to understand these laws if you live in one of these states. It’s also beneficial to have money-related conversations with your partner so neither of you finds yourself in a compromising financial situation should a worst-case scenario happen.