Legal Question in Credit and Debt Law in Pennsylvania

If a spouse passes away with debt, that remaining spouse has no connection with , or did not sigh anything, is remaining spouse responsibel for debt?

Asked on 7/17/13, 12:33 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Assuming its credit card or personal loan debt, the answer is no, if the surviving spouse did not apply for the debt as a co-borrower. The surviving spouse may be indirectly liable however. An estate may need probated for the deceased spouse. To the extent that the deceased spouse had probate assets, then the debts of the deceased spouse would have to be paid from the deceased spouse's estate before the surviving spouse or other heirs would receive their inheritance (other than the family allowance). However, not all assets are probate assets - like land held as a tenancy by the entireties, joint checking accounts or life insurance or an IRA/401(k).

If the debt was for medical expenses incurred in the last 6-12 months of debt or for things like nursing home care, then the answer may be yes. The deceased spouse's estate would be primarily liable for the debts, but to the extent there are outstanding medical bills then the medical provider might look to the surviving spouse who would be liable under the doctrine of necessaries as it exists in PA.

Please see a local probate attorney who practices in the county in which you reside to assist you with this before you decide to pay or not pay.

If the deceased spouse truly had no probate assets and the debt is only for something like a personal loan or credit card in the name of the deceased spouse only, then all that may be necessary is to send a certified letter to the creditor advising that the deceased spouse has passed away (send a copy of the death certificate) and that no estate will be probated as there are no assets justifying probate and that you as the survivor are not personally liable for this debt. That should be the end of the matter.

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Answered on 7/17/13, 1:17 pm

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