If you are like most people, unless you have kids your property and finances are the most important asset that you have. Especially in the context of living together contracts where there is no legal boundaries other that the ones you and your living partner place on one another, you will want to pay special attention to how property and finances are handled.
What Types of Things Should my Living Partner and I Put in our Living Together Contract with Respect to Property and Finances?
- Property owned before living together: Many times the assets you bring to a relationship end up being more valuable than the assets you purchase during a relationship. Especially if you are independently wealthy or have inherited assets from a family member, you will want to write something about these assets in your living together agreement. You will want to have some idea where this property goes if and when your relationship ends.
- Property inherited or received by gift during the relationship: No one can plan on inheriting property, but occasionally it happens. Keep in mind there is a clear division in the eyes of most courts about the difference between things gifted to one party, and items gifted to both partners. You will want to keep track of these items, where they came from, and who has control over them as the relationship proceeds
- Property bought during the relationship: People choose to divide these assets two ways. One way is to keep track "blow-by-blow" (the "I bought it so it belongs to me approach"). Another way is to pool everything, and decide later. Still others may decide to divide based on percentage of money expended. Whatever your choice is in this regard, make note of this choice in the contract, and then keep good records.
- Expenses during the relationship: This is the nit-picky day-to-day stuff (e.g. food, utilities, laundry, and housing). If you and your partner have equal income, share expenses 50-50. The reality is that it's too confusing to divide things up any other way. If you and you partner have seriously different income levels each should contribute in proportion to their income.
Should I Hire an Attorney to Help Me with the Financial Part of my Living Together Contract?
Figuring out how assets, debt, and living expenses should be handled in a living together contract is important. Especially if both parties come to the relationship with any kind of assets, having a family lawyer look over the contract once you have agreed on its terms is a good idea. A lawyer near you can also put the contract into a form that is legally binding. Please note that is unethical for the same lawyer to represent both sides at the same time, so you should probably have two lawyers look over the agreement before you sign.
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