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Property Agreements for Unmarried Couples

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Property Agreements for Unmarried Couples

If an unmarried couple has not been together for a long time and does not own much together, making a written agreement is not really necessary. However, the longer you live together the more important is it to prepare a written contract making it clear who owns what. This is especially important if you begin to accumulate a lot of property together, such as a house.

What Should a Property Agreement Include?

The major areas of concern for most unmarried couples are:

  • how property and assets are owned
  • whether or not income and expenses are shared

What If We Are Buying a House Together?

It is very important to make a written property agreement if an unmarried couple buys a house together. Your contract should cover at least four major areas:

  • How much of the house does each of you own?
  • How is title (ownership) of the house to be listed on the deed?
  • What happens to the house if you break up?
  • If one of you has a buyout right, how will the house be appraised and how long will the buyout take?

Should Our Property Agreement Include Who Is Entitled to What Income?

Yes. Although each person in a relationship starts out owning all of his or her job-related income, many states allow this to be changed by an oral contract or even by a contract implied from the circumstances of how you live. If one person makes more money than the other and is the main financial support, make a written agreement that reflects that fact and how that income is to be divided in case of a breakup.

What Is Palimony and Should It Be Included in Our Written Agreement?

Palimony is a phrase used to describe the division of property or alimony-like support paid to one person in an unmarried couple by the other after a breakup. If you are part of an unmarried couple who has broken up you are not entitled to palimony payments unless you have both reached an agreement about it.

Am I Liable for the Debts of My Partner?

No.  As part of an unmarried couple you are not liable for the other person's debts unless you have specifically undertaken responsibility to pay a particular debt.

If One Unmarried Spouse Dies, What Will the Survivor Inherit?

Generally the surviving person will not be eligible to inherit anything unless the deceased had made a will, or used another estate planning device to include their unmarried partner. In some states registered domestic partners may automatically inherit a portion of a deceased partner's property.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Property Agreement?

While you and your partner may not require a lawyer to draft your property agreement, you should consult a family law attorney if you feel the agreement is not being adhered to or if you encounter any other difficulties when attempting to enforce the agreement.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 06-26-2014 04:49 PM PDT

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