Many people assume that marrying someone automatically makes you responsible for their past debt. This is absolutely not the case, but its a myth that wont seem to die.
Lets say your fiance has poor credit after taking out a massive student loan, and he or she has had a tough time paying it back. Their financial history and habits might affect you indirectly, but youre not on the hook for anything they incurred prior to your marriage, including that student loan. The Wall Street Journal explains that, unless you refinance that debt together, your credit histories remain separate and you dont take on their debt:
Many couples think marrying each other means merging their debt loads, but that generally is not the case. While many couples opt to pay down debt together, neither spouse is usually legally obligated to pay off debt that the other incurred before marriage, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at credit-monitoring service SmartCredit.com.
However, be aware that a spouse could lose that protection. If you refinance a loan with your significant other and put your name on the loans promissory note, or add yourself as a joint account holder of a credit card, youll likely become responsible for those debts, even if your spouse took them on before marriage, he says.
People probably get tripped up on this myth because once you are married, yes, you may be responsible for any debt your partner incurs during the marriage. That depends on a number of different factors, namely, whether you live in a community or common law state. Weve outlined the details in this guide on how to protect your credit when you get married. And yes, refinancing means taking on a new debt, so if you refinance an old debt into a new one, that could make you liable.
In general though, no, youre not legally responsible for your new spouses old debt.
For more debt myths, head to the Wall Street Journals full article below.
12 Debt Myths That Trip Up Consumers | Wall Street Journal
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