Do Unmarried Couples Have Property Rights?

Happy couple

In today’s day and age, there is a far greater likelihood that many couples will live together before getting married and many will choose not to officially tie the knot at all. It is becoming more socially acceptable and is often considered easier than going through all of the official ties associated with marriage. However, this may cause some financial twists for the unsuspecting couple. One of these areas is in property rights for couples who have been living together for some time, and may even jointly own the properties, but are not officially married. A solid way of ensuring that your rights are secure in your property should you later separate with your partner, or need to otherwise divide the property, is through drawing up a Cohabitation Property Agreement.

What does that include? Your newly drawn up Cohabitation Property Agreement is able to bend and be customized according to the specific relationship that you have with your partner—even if they are just a very long term roommate. The document should specify which assets belong to whom, how you will determine ownership of future assets, the ways that income and expenses will be shared, as well as the management of bank accounts, credit cards, and insurance policies. It is above all a financial document for your continued protection and success. A key part of this is understanding the ownership of the property in which you live.

Dividing and Sharing your Home. This is one of the biggest portions of your new cohabitation property agreement. It will determine ownership of the deed, percentages, and portions of the house which each of you explicitly owns, and what buyout rights will be distributed if you should end up selling your home in the future. It makes provisions for the house should you break up, including who will be able to continue living there before the house resells!  This is a critical part of planning for your financial future and should not be taken lightly.

Palimony and Debt Liability: Unlike married couples, you will not be held liable for any of your partner's debts should you separate, nor will you be required legally to pay them any sort of alimony—though many do choose to do so in a term lightly called ‘palimony’, which does not hold any legal standing and is not included in a cohabitation property agreement. Different types of domestic partnerships do hold debt liability, but if you have never formalized your union, it should not be a requirement.

Seeking Professional Legal Counsel. If you are currently cohabitating with a partner and worried about your finances in terms of your home or other major property values, it is important to work with an accomplished attorney to look at your specific situation. We can help you to write up a cohabitation property agreement and many more important documents. For a free phone consultation with either of us at the Law Office of Smith & Horowitz, give us a call today at (215) 515-8464 to learn more.

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