Co-inhabiting: the Commitment, Cost, and Complexity

Marriage does not define commitment, but understanding and agreeing about financials in a relationship does. It's a hard step, there's no doubt about it, but an important one. In today's age, millennials are waiting to get married for longer, only about 26 percent of them aged 18-32 are. Instead, they do not comingle their assets and just hold a joint account for shared expenses and vacations. Today we will address some of the common decisions that unmarried couples face and the ramifications of different ways to deal with it. Let's face it- it's about time you nailed down the financials in your relationship- and we are here to help you do just that.


If the title of a home is in one person's name, the owner can sell without the other partner's consent regardless of financial contributions made. If the titleholder passes away without a will or trust, the estate would then go through probate and the house would pass to the next of kin. The surviving partner would be without a house and a significant other. A home comes with generous mortgage interest and property tax deductions. That being said, layers of complexity await an unmarried couple. They must first both be on the title and mortgage of the home and then coordinate their tax returns to claim the deductions; where a married couple does not have to. On top of that- who pays the property taxes and maintenance costs is up to you, but you might want to see an accountant for the best way to save the most come April 15th.


I know it's not the first thing on your mind, but it is always a possibility. In any case, you should draft a relationship agreement, which can be done inexpensively on Rocket Lawyer or LegalZoom if you can't afford a lawyer. If either of you have significant assets or liabilities, we strongly suggest getting an agreement through an estate attorney. It should mention how you will manage and pay for ongoing expenses such as housing, food, childcare and utilities, who has ownership to what, and in the event of a breakup so that you can split amicably and avoid court.


Generally, when two people first start cohabitating they do not jointly own many assets. This would protect a partner who has a high credit score if the other has a poor score, namely if they apply for a loan together and get rejected it would hurt the partner with the high credit score more.


The number of children living with unmarried parents has risen from 0.9 million in 1996 to 1.8 million in 2012. In addition, there are an estimated 6,000 same-sex couples, not in a civil partnership, who have children. Adoption planning is highly specific to where you live, and we highly recommend consulting a specialized attorney in the State you reside. If a child is adopted, you can do a second-parent adoption in states that allow to give the non-biological or secondary parent equal rights. If the secondary parent did not take that step, a biological parent needs to be found and legal steps must be taken to be recognized as the rightful parent. In doing so you would grant the child beneficiary entitlements and survivorship income benefits should something happen to you.


To make it simple there are a few things you should do, some of which need to be drafted by an estate attorney

  • A living trust- To whom does property held in a trust pass.
  • Beneficiary designations- Accounts passes directly to beneficiaries without going through probate, make sure they are on all accounts, if you need help you can call your custodian.
  • Power of attorney- All this means is the other party the right to make decisions and sign documents on your behalf, it is a safe guard against the unknown.

As your salaries increase and your relationship grows, you can reassess how much each is paying for things, which should be done at least annually. It may be best to sit down with a financial advisor to discuss these things as mistakes could lead to difficult predicaments. While not being married has its pros and cons, planning for particular what-if’s that married couples don’t have to will help you tremendously when things go awry. 

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