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Marital Issues When Medical Problems Arise

Non-Community Property States: Who Owns What ?

Most states do not have a community property characterization scheme of marital asset ownership. In these states, there are many laws which determine who owns which assets in a marriage. The following is a very general and brief statement about ownership of assets in a marriage. Should this become a problem or an issue it is recommended that each spouse seek the counsel of an attorney, in advance of taking any action with respect to incurring any debts, purchasing any property or disposing of any assets.

In general, all property in the marriage is considered to be of joint ownership. But, whatever property you bring to the marriage is yours. Again, this is a generalization and certain factors can affect the ownership of this property.

Marital debts can sometimes be considered to be the separate debt of one spouse, depending upon a number of factors in a marriage. As a general rule, items purchased for the necessity of the marriage are considered to be jointly owned. Thus, both spouses are responsible for these debts.

In many states, a spouse does not have the right to run up a large amount of bills for non-marriage related expenses, and to claim the other spouse is responsible for these debts, or at least one-half of them. Of course, your course of conduct may alter this rule. That is, if you have previously given your spouse the right to incur debts in your name, he/she may be deemed by a court to be acting with similar authority with respect to any new debts.

Interestingly, a spouse is not responsible for the contractual obligations of the other spouse, unless they are for the benefit of items necessary for the family or the home. Needless to say, interpretations of this principle can lead to wildly different understandings of the word "necessary." Each state may have court cases in which disputes similar to those spouses may have already been litigated. Lawyers can research these in an effort to provide assistance or guidance should you and your spouse have a different opinion of whether a certain contract might be necessary for the marriage. There are, however, no easy results and the outcome may vary depending upon your state and its courts.

Our Hypothetical. Again, there would be no significant changes in the ownership of property as long as the couple remained married.

Marital Issues When Medical Problems Arise
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