January 24, 2019

Can New Wife be Held Liable for Husband’s Debts

When you get married, your accept your spouse “for better or for worse.”  Sometimes this means that your new husband or wife enters into your marriage with significant debt.  Can you as the spouse ever be held liable for this debt.

The answer to this question is “no.”   You cannot be held responsible for another person’s debt unless you voluntarily agree to take on those obligations.

As a practical matter, however, this means that you should avoid opening a joint checking account or buying a large asset jointly.   In Georgia, a joint bank account belongs to both parties, each having an undivided half interest.  This means that a garnishing creditor can clean out the account.

Similarly, if your new spouse is dealing with tax problems, think twice about filing a joint return.   The IRS and Georgia Department of Revenue would love to have two parties to pursue instead of one, and that joint tax refund could be at risk.

Bottom line:  if your spouse is carrying significant debt or has tax problems, keep your financial affairs separate.

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