Can unmarried couples buy a house together?
These days it seems an ever increasing number of young couples live together before they tie the knot. Many actually buy homes together without ever getting married at all.
One common pitfall among unmarried couples involves sharing property together without preparing for the relationship’s potential end. The law sees unmarried couples the same as two independents living under the same roof (more or less). This means they lack the protections married couples enjoy.
If you plan on buying property as an unmarried co-owner, consider the following…
Purchasing A House Together
Before purchasing a house with your better half, decide how you plan on claiming the property. Are you joint tenants? 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, a key difference exists.
Under joint tenancy, couples share ownership of the home equally. But as tenants in common, owners determine what percentage stake they each own. 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 inherited all of the royalties from his intellectual property. The unfortunately happened because he failed to list his girlfriend as the inheritor of his fortune.
If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.
This proves the importance of a will for both married AND unmarried couples.
According to the law, if no will exists, the state divides the house 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.
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.