Love, Relationships and Finance: Prenuptual Agreements pt. 7

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Pre-Nups and Debt Protection

Without a pre-nup, am I responsible for debts my spouse incurred before we were married?

In most cases, you are not responsible for such debts. You may, however, be responsible for debts incurred during marriage. If you and your spouse have a joint credit card issued in both your names, for example, you are each responsible for all debt on that card.

What happens to me if the credit card my spouse uses is issued only in my spouse’s name?

That’s trickier. Let’s consider credit cards that your spouse has in his or her name alone, for his or her own purposes. If your spouse creates a large debt and cannot pay, the creditor has a legal right to come after you -- unless you have filed a pre-nup with the credit card company stating that you are not responsible for your spouse separate debts. Why? Because your partner probably checked “married” in the marital status box on the application, and thus triggered a clause, in very fine print, stating that the cardholder’s spouse will also be responsible for the debt, unless otherwise noted.

Can a pre-nup give me protection against most of my partner’s debts?

In some states, you can protect yourself by having a pre-nup that specifies which debts you will not be responsible for. For example, you could state that any credit cards in your spouse’s name alone will not be your responsibility. This option may or may not be available in your state. Check with a lawyer to see whether sending a copy of your prenuptial agreement to all pertinent credit card companies, including those with which you set up new accounts, will afford protection.

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Monday, May 5, 2008 10:14