Hello and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to assist you.
Question: “What if that business fails or she defauts on a loan, can she file bankruptcy separately. Am I at all jointly responsible for her credit cards etc in her name? Can creditors get at any of the equity I have accrued in the joint household?”
Answer: You are not liable for your wife’s debts. That goes for any loans she takes out solely in her name, and any credit cards solely in her name as well. Therefore, if she were to default on such a loan or credit card, then her creditors cannot go after you or your assets. However, they can go after jointly held assets up to her interest in them (i.e. your half would be protected, and her half could be taken).
Real estate requires a little clarification, however. If you and your wife own your home as a “tenancy by the entireties,” then her creditors cannot touch the house. If you own it as a “joint tenancy” or “tenancy in common,” then her creditors can get to the house, but only her portion of it. In that scenario, the house could be sold, the mortgage would be paid first, and the equity would be split evenly between you and your wife … the creditors may go after her share of the equity.
This is just a guess since I haven’t seen your deed, but I suspect you own the house as a “tenancy by the entireties” since that is the preferred way for a married couple to own property. Check your deed to be certain … it should clearly state one of the 3 methods of ownership I mentioned above.
Have I satisfactorily addressed your concerns? If not, then please feel free to ask for clarification.