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I've just come across this article over on the mintlife blog and noticed that I do live in one of the ten community property states. I'm not overly familiar with this particular concept (keep in mind I moved here from the UK and the rules governing debt and spousal responsibility for them are obviously different just about everywhere), but my understanding is that both partners are liable for debt taken out by one partner in a marriage.

  • Does this include all types of debts, like credit cards, car loans, mortgages, student loans?
  • Does this only apply to debts that were taken on during marriage or to all debts of both partners? Ie if you have student loans dating prior to your marriage, is your partner still liable for those? Or for 'old' credit card debt?
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No two states have the same exact laws regarding community property. I would recommend asking a competent financial advisor in your area, as they would be more familiar with the local statutes.

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I know one piece of information that can help you (in a macabe sort of way) - from what my wife has told me, if your partner dies, you are not responsible for paying for their debts, especially student loans. I expect the same thing for credit cards - if someone were to happen to charge $2,000 on their credit card and get hit by a bus, the credit card company can cajole and plead for you to pay for it, but you have no legal requirement to do so.

Unfortunately I do not have as much information about as if you spouse is living.

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I was aware of this stipulation (ie the estate of the deceased is responsible for settling the debts of the deceased) but even that might be different if the debt has been taken on during the marriage (if I'm completely paranoid)... –  Timo Geusch Oct 29 '10 at 18:13
    
That isn't necessarily true in community property states. Also, the estate of the deceased will have to settle debts, and the executor (often a spouse) will need to deal with that. –  duffbeer703 Oct 30 '10 at 22:01
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