How To Protect Your Assets If You Aren’t Married to Your Partner

Research conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2019 showed that at least 59% of American adults aged 18 to 44 had resided with a romantic interest at some point in their lives. Their other research showed that cohabitation without any plans to marry was becoming increasingly more accepted, especially among younger generations. For example, at least 63% of those 65 and older felt that this was acceptable, whereas 78% of those under age 30 felt the same. 

The increasing popularity of unmarried couples living together has led to family law firms like ours fielding a lot of questions about how to protect your assets if you aren’t married to your partner. Among those individuals who’ve reached out to us have been individuals wanting to know how to best protect their interests when purchasing real estate with their partners. Also, we’ve had quite a few people reach out about how to divide up property, and a relationship like this runs its course.

Having a Written Agreement Is Essential

When you’re planning to move in with a romantic interest, having a written agreement upfront is critically important.  Unmarried couples have no legal rights to support or equitable distribution of property in the event the relationship ends. A written agreement is especially important if you plan to take any of the following steps with them:

  • Open a joint bank account
  • Co-apply for a credit card with them or make them an authorized user on an existing account
  • Share household bills
  • Buy property together, whether real estate, vehicles, etc., or contribute towards payments on a house or car, especially if the asset is not in your name

Absent a written agreement, you could be stuck owning assets with someone after your relationship is over or having contributed towards an asset without any claim on it. 

As you might surmise based on the listing above, written agreements can be effective for not only outlining which financial obligations each party has related to the household, like paying for the utilities and the rent or a mortgage and assets parties are coming into the new joint living arrangement with, but also document their plan for what they acquire during their relationship if the parties go their separate ways. Absent a written agreement, the law will look at the name on any asset or debt to determine who owns the asset or owes the debt. 

Estate Planning Documents That Unmarried Couples Should Have

Because unexpected medical events and death can befall anyone at any point, it’s not uncommon for unmarried couples to draft estate planning documents giving their partner the right to make certain decisions on their behalf or outlining how they want to pass their property interests on to their partners. 

Some estate planning documents to consider having drafted or updated before or soon after cohabitation begins or if the relationship unravels include:

  • Joint Tenancy With Rights of Survivorship or Tenants in Common Agreements
  • Your will
  • Financial and healthcare powers of attorney
  • Retirement or life insurance beneficiary designation forms
  • Healthcare directives

Where To Turn for Help if You’re Planning to Move in With a Partner or Recently Split From Them

Having everything properly documented in writing and executed in alignment with NC law is enormously critical.   Our attorneys’ expertise in both family and domestic law and estate planning is very important in situations like these, meaning we might advise you that pursuing the options above are best or some other approach is. Contact us to discuss your unique case and how our Biggs Law Firm team can be of assistance. 

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