These days it seems an ever increasing number of young couples live together before they tie the knot, and many actually buy homes together without ever getting married at all. A pitfall we’ve seen a lot of unmarried couples get into is that they end up sharing property together, but they never plan for the relationship to end. Under the law, an unmarried couple is treated more or less the same as two independents living under the same roof, meaning they don’t enjoy any of the protections that married couples do. Here’s what you need to consider if you’re an unmarried co-homeowner:
Purchasing A House Together
Before you purchase a house with your better half, come to a consensus on how you will claim the property. Are you joint tenants? Are you tenants-in-common? Perhaps only one of you is the homeowner? It’s an absolute must that you figure this out as soon as possible.
Tenants-In-Common vs Joint Tenants
These terms sound pretty similar, right? Well, here’s the key difference: Under joint tenancy, ownership of the home is shared equally. But if you are tenants in common, both owners determine what stake they each have in the property. So one may have 90%, and the other 10%. And unlike with joint tenancy, a tenant-in-common has no right of survivorship. This means that they don’t inherit the property upon their partner’s death.
Right of Survivorship
Under the principle of right of survivorship, the surviving owner automatically receives the deceased’s share of the home. In joint tenancies, upon the death of one of the joint tenants ownership of the remaining property passes to the surviving tenant, who asserts the right of survivorship. This principle is inherited from Common Law and is now legally codified in all states.
Dying Without A Will If You Are Unmarried
The author of Girl With A Dragon Tattoo passed away in 2004, leaving behind his girlfriend Eva Gabrielsson. In a heavily publicized ordeal, Stieg’s biological family was actually able to inherit all of the royalties from his intellectual property, all because he didn’t properly make sure his girlfriend was listed as the inheritor of his fortune. Unfortunately, if it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone. This is why it’s important to make a will if you are unmarried, because according to the law, if there is a lack of a will the house is divided intestate. This means that the property is divided according to the deceased’s biological relatives, without taking into account friends or partners that the deceased may have valued more than their blood relations. This is why a will is so important. A will allows you to name whomever you want to inherit the property, not just the people in your life that share your last name. If you’re in a relationship where you won’t be getting married for whatever reason, this is really something you need to think about. Start making your will tomorrow, and you’ll breath so much easier knowing you did.