Am I Legally Responsible for My Late Husband’s Debts?

Grieving the loss of a spouse is one of the most stressful periods of anyone’s life, because unfortunately the surviving widow(er) often has much more to deal with than simply grief. Spousal death can leave anyone literally reeling.

In addition to the sadness you are feeling, there are many details to arrange including arranging a funeral, viewing, or other remembrance ceremony for your beloved. On top of the minutiae of planning the commemoration, there are usually other circumstantial issues plaguing your every waking thought regarding your children and/or money. This is especially true if you were not the spouse who was “in charge of” or largely responsible for your family’s finances.

Some of the most common questions running through your mind may include:

  • How will I pay for the funeral?
  • Will I be able to pay all of the bills without my spouse’s help?
  • Is there a life insurance policy to assist me? If so, how do I access it?
  • Has my spouse written a will (Estate Plan)?

As you attempt to find answers to these questions, you may realize that you have additional questions once you start sorting through some of the necessary paperwork.

Sometimes, you may even uncover some information that is quite a surprise, like money problems you were in the dark about – perhaps loans that were taken out without your knowledge.

Chances are good, that, as a married couple, most of your finances were merged long ago. However, if you discover that your late husband or wife had personally signed for loans or had taken on other debt without your knowledge, are you now responsible for those debts?

This is actually a situation that arises more often than you might expect. The answer to this question depends on the type of debt that was incurred, and whether or not your signature is on any of the paperwork. Even if you say you were completely unaware of a particular loan, proving that your late spouse forged your signature isn’t an easy task (but not impossible, if it really is the case).

If your late husband or wife personally signed for a home equity loan or other loans wherein your house was used as collateral, you will not be held responsible for paying the lenders. However, the debts will remain attached to the property, so if you wish to continue living there, you will need to address the debts whether you previously knew about them or not.

Filing for bankruptcy after the death of a spouse happens quite often, but in the event that you want to keep the home that you’re living in, a bankruptcy will not discharge the loan(s) taken out by your late spouse unless you plan to enter into foreclosure.

If you have more questions about what to do after the death of your spouse in the State of NJ, call or contact our office today so that we can sit down with you in a free consultation and start sorting out your financial future.

Image Credit: Beverly

One Response to Am I Legally Responsible for My Late Husband’s Debts?

  1. Pingback: Do My Brother’s Creditors Have a Claim to My Inheritance? | Veitengruber Law

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