|Question: Should my partner and I buy a house together even though we're not married?|
If you want to buy a home with your partner, go ahead. Together, you may be able to qualify for a larger mortgage than if one partner alone applied for the loan.
However, be aware that unmarried partners have some unique considerations that married couples don't have. The laws dealing with the distribution of property when a couple splits up or a partner dies are few and vague when the couple is not married. So it's crucial for unmarried partners to have a detailed written agreement regarding their respective ownership interests in the property and their intentions for distribution of the property if either partner should die or if the relationship ends. Both partners should also keep thorough and accurate records of their respective contributions.
You and your partner can own the property in one of many ways, including:
Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship means that when one partner dies, the surviving partner automatically owns the entire property, bypassing the probate process. This way of owning property may make it more difficult to sell your share of the property without your partner's consent. However, it may also offer creditor protection because neither partner owns a separate share; instead, both own equal rights in the entire property.
As tenants in common, you and your partner each can leave your portion of the property to whomever you choose in your wills. Creditors of tenants in common may have an easier time attaching the property than if it were owned jointly with rights of survivorship.
You and your partner may decide that only one of you will own the property. However, if you choose individual ownership, beware. The person named on the deed will be able to sell the property without the consent or even the knowledge of the other partner.
You can also choose to own the property in trust, with the trust agreement spelling out the rights and obligations of each partner.
You'll want to get advice from an experienced attorney on all of the ownership options available to you and your partner.