The question of whether to pay off your fiance's debt is loaded with all kinds of emotional and ethical quandaries. On one hand, you undoubtedly love your fiance and would want to see him out from under a financial burden. On the other hand, there are financial risks involved. Whether or not you should take that step is a personal decision that only you can make, based on your own assessment of the pluses and minuses.
The most obvious benefit of paying off your fiance's debt is that he no longer has to worry about that obligation. Paying the debt off now can help avoid nagging debt payments in the future. Without debt, your fiance's credit score will likely improve, which could help your chances to get a joint loan, such as a home mortgage, in the future.
Paying off your fiance's debt will take a chunk of your money that you will never see again. You won't be able to use it on things you want or need, and you'll essentially receive nothing in return for the payment. Your fiance may also escape without learning the lesson that you have to pay for what you borrow. With you paying his debt, your fiance suffers no repercussions for overextending himself, and may be more likely to overspend again in the future, expecting that you'll be able to bail him out again.
Legally, you are under no obligation to pay off your fiance's debt. Even after you get married, if the debt is in his name only, you share no legal liability. In the nine community-property states, any debt either of you incurs is essentially joint debt, which you are both liable to pay. However, the debt your fiance brings to the marriage is always his alone, unless you sign on to the account as a joint owner.
Since you are not yet married to your fiance, you have no official financial ties. If you give him the money to pay off his debt, he could take the money and run, and you'd have little to no recourse. It's also possible that your fiance could take your money and use it for something else besides debt payment. While both of these scenarios may be unlikely, there is always a risk that someone will change their stripes when handed free money, particularly if it's a large amount.
After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in English from UCLA, John Csiszar earned a Certified Financial Planner designation and served 18 years as an investment adviser. Csiszar has served as a technical writer for various financial firms and has extensive experience writing for online publications.