Living by yourself can be lonely and expensive. If you have a significant other, it only makes sense to consider splitting the bills and sharing a home. However, unmarried couples that live together have more potential financial challenges than married couples. There are laws that cover married couples when the relationship ends. The same is not true for unmarried couples.
A couple might not be ready to get married or may decide that marriage isn’t an option for a variety of reasons. Just because you’re not married, doesn’t mean you’re free of financial disagreements.
Keep these tips in mind if you’re living with a romantic partner:
- Decide on home ownership. If you’re just splitting the rent, things are a lot less complicated. Some unmarried couples decide to purchase a home together. What happens if things go south? Can one partner buy out the other? Does the house have to be sold? What if one partner buys the house and charges the other rent?
- Consider whose name is on the title. It’s possible for one partner to acquire the financing but both partners to be on the deed.
- This is one of those times it would be wise to consult an attorney before making the purchase.
- If there are children, paternity is not assumed. If you’re married and have a child, the husband is assumed to be the father and has certain rights. This isn’t true if the couple isn’t married. To be recognized legally as the father, it’s necessary to take legal steps.
- A lawyer can file the necessary paperwork to establish guardianship. While it might not be financially relevant to you, it can be to your children. For example, your children may be eligible for Social Security survivorship benefits, but only if it’s been established that you’re the parent.
- Plan your estate. Unmarried couples require estate planning more than married couples. If one partner dies without a will, the surviving partner has few, if any, legal rights. This is very different for a married couple.
- The same planning applies to power of attorney or health care power of attorney. Your partner will not be able to control your finances or your health care decisions if you’re unable to do them.
- Have a system for paying bills. Will one partner buy the groceries while the other pays the utilities? Will you have a joint bank account for paying bills? Will everything be split 50-50 or will the bills be divided proportionally based on individual income?
- Have a weekly financial chat. Unmarried couples have a tendency to be a little less open about their respective financial situations. Have a discussion each week about the bills and any unexpected expenses.
- Most importantly, have a lengthy discussion about finances before you move in together. Get the details ironed out so there are no misunderstandings.
- Have a plan if the relationship ends. Have an agreement for how assets will be split. What if you both pay for the new TV? It’s even more complicated if you both make payments on a shared automobile. Married couples can use a prenup. The similar document for unmarried couples is often referred to as a “no-nup.”
- Remember there’s a difference between a roommate and a partner. You split everything down the middle with a roommate and ownership of assets is clear. When you’re a couple, the lines blur. Just because you’ve successfully lived with a roommate in the past doesn’t mean the same tactics and strategies will work.
Before you take the plunge of living with your significant other, take the time to discuss how your collective finances will work. Financial discussions aren’t just for married couples. For your best results, plan ahead and consider what the future may hold.