What is my legal obligation on my wifes credit card bills if the cards are in her name only? 9 Answers as of October 25, 2012

Am I obligated to my wife's credit card charges if she dies or defaults if they are not joint accounts? The bank savings account, house, investments, vehicles, and etc. are in both our names, should that be changed or can they lay claim to these?

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The Coyle Law Office
The Coyle Law Office | T. Andrew Coyle
This depends on what state you live in. In Illinois, there is a presumption that the debts of one spouse are not the debt of the other. However, property that is jointly owned (except your residence if owned as tenants by the entirety) can be attached to pay the debts of one of the owners. If all of your property is owned jointly, it may be too late to change those things, but it may be smart to establish a new account in just your name and for you to start depositing your income there.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 6/28/2011
E. Ray Critchett, LLC
E. Ray Critchett, LLC | Ray Critchett
The law in each state is different but proper simple estate planning in Ohio can help avoid some of the pitfalls you addressed.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 10/25/2012
Burnham & Associates
Burnham & Associates | Stephanie K. Burnham
This answer may be different based on the laws in your state, however, if you are not on the credit cards, you have not been an authorized user (been issued a credit card to use on her account) or had any use of that credit then they creditors should not come after you. However, your assets that you own together are at risk for attachment.
Answer Applies to: New Hampshire
Replied: 6/28/2011
Martinson & Beason, PC
Martinson & Beason, PC | Douglas C Martinson II
You are not liable for your wife's credit card debt unless you signed on them. If you assets are held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship (JTWROS), the creditors could go after those assets while she is living. At her death, the assets are non-probate assets and would pass to you outside the estate and would not be subject to the creditor claims. This is under Alabama law, check in your state.
Answer Applies to: Alabama
Replied: 6/28/2011
The Schreiber Law Firm
The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
That would depend on the law of the State where you live. In some states, no, in other states certain property rights of the debtor in joint property can be attached.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/28/2011
    Law Offices of Brian Chew
    Law Offices of Brian Chew | Brian Chew
    In a community property state such as California, 100% of your community property is available to creditors for either of your debts as well as the separate property of the debtor. It does not matter whose name is on the account as any funds which originated from the money you earned from your job since you have been married is considered to be community property. The only way to protect up to half of the community property is to divide your assets into separate property via a transmutation agreement. However, the debtor spouse must receive at least 50% of the community property in order for the agreement to stand up to the creditors.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/28/2011
    Ashman Law Office
    Ashman Law Office | Glen Edward Ashman
    If she dies, creditors usually get paid before you do, so her debts could affect your inheritance.
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 6/28/2011
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