In 2018, more and more couples are starting non-traditional families, or buying homes together before they are married.
It’s extremely common for most unmarried couples to accumulate shared property, but less common to consider how the property will be dealt with in the event of the end of the relationship, or more dire circumstances.
It isn’t just a matter of how much you and your partner earn that determines the type of home you will buy – unmarried couples need to remember that while there are certain laws that help protect married couples who split, there is no such law for them.
There are plenty of reasons it makes sense to buy, even if you aren’t, or don’t plan to be married. Rising rents, low property costs (in certain areas, of course), deducting mortgage interest and property taxes, the list goes on.
So, instead of bashing the choice to buy property without marriage as a legal safety net, let’s take a look at the steps unmarried couples should take before signing the dotted line on a home, or plan a life with their partner.
- Getting the correct title or deeds for property. Be sure that the property deed you possess protects both parties, whether that is Tenants in Common, the Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship title, or a trust.
- Life Insurance. Because unmarried couples are not entitled to things like Social Security benefits and pensions, life insurance is very important to ensure your partner is protected in the case of your death.
- Retirement Accounts. Filling out your beneficiary forms to indicate your partner is a crucial step in ensuring your retirement assets go where they should.
- Healthcare and Power of Attorney. Many people think they are protected with a will, however, a will does not dictate what will happen in the event of incapacitation rather than death. This can create a legal grey-area nightmare for unmarried couples if not specified correctly within a trust.
Planning for the unexpected is a major piece of responsibility as you grow your life with someone. Unfortunately for unmarried couples, the law is not on your side. Marriage is of course not the only option to ensure protection, and estate planning can go a long way to alleviate any legal nightmares for you or your partner down the road.
Reference: family.findlaw.com “Unmarried Couples and Property Basics”