It depends on whether the husband's estate was solvent and whether the bills are in fact community debts. Speaking generally, if the estate was solvent the wife might have a bit of a problem if she took all of the assets and left the creditors high and dry (although the wife may be entitled to a share of the estate equal to the homestead exemption before the creditors get anything). If the debts were incurred in benefit of the marital community she's probably responsible for at least a portion of them.
It depends. The general rule is that a person cannot be responsible for the debts of a decedent without a written agreement promising to pay those debts, but that rule is tempered somewhat by the effect of community property. It depends on whether the husband and wife were separated or not, and whether the wife knew about the debt and maybe benefitted from the debt. Washington is a community property state, but whether an estate of a married person gets probated is a question that can only be responsibly answered in an in-person consultation. I don't know nearly enough about this situation to hazard a guess about whether this estate should be probated or not, and whether the credit cards have to be paid out of the estate or not. On one hand, chances are the credit cards are probably not secured debt (though they could be) but on the other hand, the creditors could be the only creditors of a million-dollar estate. Sorry to make it worse, but a consult here is a very good idea. Elizabeth Powell
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