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Necessaries refers to essentials necessary for a person to live a healthy and comfortable life. What constitutes a necessary depends on one’s socio-economic status, background, and standard of living. Thus, they may comprise things beyond the bare necessities. Some examples of necessaries include food, habitation, medical treatments, and legal services.

In some jurisdictions, a doctrine of necessaries exists where a spouse is liable for the costs and expenses incurred for the wellbeing of the other spouse. This arises from the common law notion that a husband must provide for his wife and children during an ongoing marriage. For the most part today, this doctrine is gender-neutral and applies to both spouses. The doctrine of necessities is virtually always used in the medical context. For example, in North Carolina, where the doctrine of necessaries applies, a party can establish a case “for the recovery of expenses incurred in providing necessary medical services for the other spouse” even if the spouse did not sign as a guarantor or request for the other spouse to be admitted.

Further Reading

For more on necessaries and the doctrine of necessaries, see this Michigan Law Review.

[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]