And in a divorce, all community assets and debt are split between the two of you.
For example, say you and your ex-husband owed money to a creditor while you were married. The divorce settlement may have assigned payment of that debt to your ex. But if he dies before paying up, the creditorcould come a-knockin' on your door.
Your only recourse then is to pay the bill yourself, file a claim against your ex's estate, and hope it's not insolvent.
Such a situation may be averted, but onlyif you thought ahead.
At the time of the divorce, to erase your liability for the debt assigned to your ex, you could try to enter into what's called a "novation" or "accord and satisfaction" with the creditor, said Utah-based estate planning attorney Geoff Germane of Kirton McConkie.
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Such agreements effectively can release you from any further obligation to pay the debt.
But, Germane said, "a creditor is unlikely to be interested" in playing along unless the spouse assigned topay the debt clearly has the money and can offer assets as collateral.
Have you ever had problems with the debt of a deceased parent, spouse or even ex-spouse? Please tell us about your experience at #YourEconomy.