10 Sep Can I Be Held Liable for My Late Fiance’s Debts?
Are you responsible for another person’s debts? Usually the answer is “no,” but can you think of circumstances when you might?
I received the following question by email from a lady named Sandra:
I discovered 2 months after the fact, that my fiance had borrowed $15,000 from a friend. No contracts or notes were signed. He paid back $7,500. He died suddenly 6 weeks ago and now the friend wants me to pay the remainder of the money. This money was never deposited into any account with my name on it. I have been searching as much as I am able and I have found a business account that was in his name only where he deposited the money. The bank told me that since my name wasn’t on the account there wasn’t anything else that they could say, but I did not have to pay his debt. I do not want to upset his friend and I will pay the remainder owed when I can. I have been told that I am not responsible and that I should not pay it. The problem is that this friend is suddenly being very pushy and red flags are oing up about the entire thing. He had said that he wasn’t in a hurry but now he wants it immediately. I think that he has maybe talked to an attorney and been told that I do not personally owe this. What should I do? There is no will or estate because everything (house, automobiles,etc) has always been in my name only.
Here are my thoughts: Based on what you have written, I do not think that you would have any legal obligation to pay back your fiance’s debt to his friend. It might be worth paying for a brief visit with a lawyer to confirm this and perhaps to ask the lawyer to write a letter on your behalf to the friend along with a request that the friend discontinue his efforts to collect from you.
If you feel that you have a moral obligation to pay this debt, you should make sure that any payment you make is accompanied by a letter stating that you deny any legal obligation to pay the debt and that any payment you make should not be considered as an acknowledgement or admission that you owe the debt.
If you send the friend regular payment without disclaiming the legal obligation to pay, the friend could argue that your actions served as an acknowledgment of a legal obligation to pay.
There may be more to this story – after all, don’t you find it unusual that your fiance would borrow such a large amount of money without telling you? Again, my suggestion would be for you to find a lawyer in your home town who can look out for your best interests and protect you from this aggressive “friend.”
Jonathan Ginsberg, Esq.
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