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Death does not relieve community property from liability for a debt imposed prior to death. The surviving spouse will be personally liable. (California Probate Code 13550-13351). Personal liability cannot exceed the value of the survivor’s half in community and quasi-community property and so much of the decedent’s half interest in such property as passes to the survivor less any liens or encumbrances. If the property passes by probate, creditors who do not file claims lose the right to proceed against the surviving spouse unless the survivor acknowledges the debt or they commence judicial proceedings against the survivor during the time for filing claims under probate. (California Probate Code 13552). If the creditor sues, the survivor has the same offsets and defenses of the decedent.

A spouse's postmarital liability for debts incurred by a former or deceased spouse is based on one spouse's receipt of property which in fairness should have been applied to the other spouse's debts. (See Frankel v. Boyd, 106 Cal. at pp. 611-612; Gould v. Fuller, 249 Cal. App. 2d at p. 21.) Such liability is not based on any legal interest the creditor has in the particular property transferred. As the court in ...

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