How to limit exposure to debt in a marriage

California residents who are married or planning to do so may benefit from a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. In some cases, it may limit an individual's liability when it comes to paying a spouse's debt. A prenuptial can be worded to specify that premarital debt belongs to the person who accrued it and that it is separate property during the marriage.

Prenuptial agreements are created prior to the marriage becoming official, and they are recognized in all 50 states. While a postnuptial agreement may not be recognized in all states, it may provide full or partial protection to those who are party to one. The main benefit of a postnuptial agreement is that it may indemnify an individual against financial harm caused by debt accrued by a spouse. As the name implies, such agreements are signed after a couple gets married.

It is important to note that a creditor is not bound by the terms of either type of agreement. It is merely a contract between the two signatories, which means that an individual may need to seek reimbursement after paying any debt that he or she may otherwise be legally responsible for. Those who live in community property states may be responsible for half of a spouse's debt even if it is taken out in his or her name only during the marriage.

Talking to a lawyer may help an individual learn more about dividing marital property in a divorce. Legal counsel may be able to review state law as well as any agreements that a couple may have had between themselves. After doing so, the lawyer may be able to help an individual create a divorce settlement that reduces his or her liability as it relates to paying debts accrued during a marriage.

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