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Can I really inherit my ex-spouse’s debts?

The ex-spouses of many deceased California men and women may be shocked to know they can inherit the deceased’s debt. According to CNN Money, this may be the case even when your divorce settlement clearly says you are not responsible for debt repayment.

The reason? You made that agreement with your ex-spouse, not the creditors. As far as the creditors are concerned, anything obtained during the marriage is shared. That includes not just assets but also debts. When this happens, your only way out may very well be to pay off your ex’s debts and file a claim against his estate.

The good news is that if you plan ahead, you may be able to prevent this unwanted inheritance from landing at your feet. This requires some special maneuvering at the time of divorce. During this time, it may be possible to contact the creditors and make arrangements for an accord and satisfaction. This agreement may protect you from any obligation to repay the debt in the event of their death.

There may be one caveat, however. Creditors often only accept such an agreement if they believe the spouse directly responsible for the debt has the ability to pay it off. This may be based on assets and other factors. If your ex-spouse is down on their luck, this may spell financial trouble for you.

There are many outdated laws related to divorce and inheritance all across America. Hopefully, as the years go by, more and more of these will be updated to protect divorcees from their ex-partner’s unpaid debts. Until then, ensuring you are not liable may ultimately be your own responsibility.

This information was provided to educate divorcees about the potential for inheriting their ex’s debts. It should not be used as legal or professional financial advice.

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