Marriage is a contractual relationship that commits a couple to a well-established set of state laws and rules governing, among other things, the couple’s property rights should one spouse die or in the event the couple split up. On the other hand, unmarried couples, do not automatically agree to any state-imposed contractual agreement at the onset of their relationship.
The couple may have a joint obligation to a landlord or to a mortgage company if they rent or buy a place together, no different than if they were roommates. In and of itself, living together does not create a contractual relationship, nor does it entitle you to a property settlement (for inheritance) should you split up (or should one of you perish).
What’s a Living Together Contact?
Typically, unmarried couples buy property, mixes assets, and invests together without writing down how the property will be shared if they split up. If problems about money and property arise, they usually try to reach an understanding or a compromise. And if they split up, possessions are typically divided and they part way without an obligation to follow the legal rules applicable to marriage and divorce.
But you don’t need me to tell you, that not all relationships end so smoothly. Often relationship battles end up in court. As a result, courts have ruled that unmarried couples generally have the right to create whatever kind of living together contracts they want relating financial and property concerns.
If an unmarried couple chooses to make an agreement together, or in some states if they act as though an agreement exists, that agreement will often be considered an enforceable contract– a “nonmarital agreement” in legal terms, or what we call a living together contract or agreement. An agreement of this nature can help alleviate problems when you commingle money and property; clarify your intentions and expectations regarding property ownership, caring for children, and covering household expenses; and ease the division of property during a breakup.
What to Include in a Living Together Contract
A living together contract can vary from being comprehensive, covering every aspect of your relationship, to specific, covering a single transaction such as a new house purchase. Your contract should state exactly what you each want, and how much sharing (if any) you want to do of property and finances. The following are the most common issues included in a living together contract:
- property and finances, including the property you had before you began the relationship, as well as the property either or both of you accumulate during it
- property inherited or received by gift during the relationship
- property bought during the relationship
- expenses, such as food, utilities, and housing
- what will happen to your property if you split up or if one of you dies, and
- a method for
Contact attorney Marc Wander to ensure your nonmarital agreement protects you and your assets in the event your relationship goes astray.
Marc H. Wander is a partner of the Bloomfield Hills law firm of Witzke, Berry, Carter &Wander, PLLC. Marc has been licensed to practice law in Michigan since 1992. Marc’s practice is devoted to estate planning and business succession planning. Marc is a member of the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan and is a prior Chairperson of the Oakland County Bar Association Tax Committee. He is a frequent continuing education speaker to insurance agents, financial advisors, CPA’s and financial industry organizations. He has also been heard on WJR Radio. Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcWander