Losing Spouse/Parent

questions & answers

Question: My late husband incurred a car repair shop debt before we met. After he died, I started getting letters from an attorney for the shop saying I was responsible for the bill now. Is this true?

Answer:

Because the details of the debt may determine whether you are liable for the debt, you may wish to consult with an attorney. You did not mention whether you received the car through a will and now own the car. The following is general information about community property in Arizona, but you may want to speak with an attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation and how the law applies to you.

In Arizona, generally when debts are incurred prior to marriage, they are considered “separate debts.” Spouses are not generally responsible for the separate debts of the other spouse. A spouse can become responsible for separate debts if he or she agrees to be responsible for the separate debt. This information is stated in the Arizona statutes: A.R.S. §25-215.

A. The separate property of a spouse shall not be liable for the separate debts or obligations of the other spouse, absent agreement of the property owner to the contrary.
B. The community property is liable for the premarital separate debts or other liabilities of a spouse, incurred after September 1, 1973 but only to the extent of the value of that spouse's contribution to the community property which would have been such spouse's separate property if single.
C. The community property is liable for a spouse's debts incurred outside of this state during the marriage which would have been community debts if incurred in this state.
D. Except as prohibited in section 25-214, either spouse may contract debts and otherwise act for the benefit of the community. In an action on such a debt or obligation the spouses shall be sued jointly and the debt or obligation shall be satisfied: first, from the community property, and second, from the separate property of the spouse contracting the debt or obligation.

In Arizona, according to A.R.S. § 25-211 there is a presumption that all earnings and property obtained during a marriage are community property. In contrast, according to A.R.S. § 25-213, property owned prior to marriage, and property gained in the marriage by gift, or devise (i.e. through a will), or descent (if there was no will), are presumed separate property.

However, you did not mention whether you now own the car or received it through a will. You may want to consult with an attorney.

 

Comments:

QUESTIONS

  • My late husband incurred a car repair shop debt before we met. After he died, I started getting letters from an attorney for the shop saying I was responsible for the bill now. Is this true?

STORIES

  • Age discrimination in the workplace. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .

LegalLEARN

YOUR FEEDBACK IS NEEDED

  • Welcome to our Newly Redesigned Website! Let us know how we are doing! Please take a couple of minutes to fill out our survey.

FIND LEGAL HELP

  • Please select your county of residence below.

    County:
     

OTHER LEGAL RESOURCES

  • State Bar of Arizona
    www.azbar.org
  • Maricopa County Bar
    www.maricopabar.org
    Referral number 602-257-4434
  • Pima County Bar
    www.pimacountybar.org
    Referral number 520-623-4625
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline
    800-799-7233
  • Bankruptcy Court Self Help Center
    866-553-0893
  • Certified Legal Document Preparer Program
    Link

ORGANIZATIONS