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Before moving in, consider signing a cohabitation agreement

Moving in with your significant other can be a big step for your relationship. Although cohabitation before marriage, or without the intention of marriage, has become a common occurrence, it is not a step to take lightly.

Before agreeing to move in with your significant other, be sure that you each understand the other’s expectations and goals for the move. It may make sense to talk about each person’s financial situation, hash out who will pay what monthly expenses and determine who will complete which household responsibilities. However, one of the most important things to do before moving in together can be signing a cohabitation agreement.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that provides you and your significant other protection in case you two break up or one of you dies. It can define rights and obligations in the relationship, while also detailing how property will be distributed in the event of a break-up or death.

Why are cohabitation agreements needed?

When a married couple divorces, there are protections in place to ensure each spouse receives a fair share of the community property. Also, when a spouse dies, the other spouse usually inherits from the deceased spouse’s estate. However, if you and your significant other are not married, you will probably not receive these legal protections without a cohabitation agreement.

As difficult as it may be to think about, if you and your significant other break up, you may not receive half of the property you accumulated together throughout your relationship, and you could end up not even getting your separate property back. If your significant other dies, you will not inherit anything through intestate succession.

Why might I need a cohabitation now?

Not all relationships merit cohabitation agreements. However, a cohabitation agreement often makes sense for long-term relationships or relationships that have reached the stage when significant amounts of money or debt will likely accumulate.

Moving in with your significant other can mark the beginning of a time when you two begin accumulating mutual assets and debts. For example, if you two are renting, you may collaborate on bills, and you may decide to pool financial resources. If you are purchasing a house, you will likely accumulate debt. After moving in, you two may decide to invest in expensive purchases together, such as furniture for the new place. You may even decide to get a pet.

All of these steps can be appropriate for your situation. However, they also make you more financially invested in the relationship. They give you more to potentially lose, if assets and debts are not divided fairly after a break-up or death.

You may not be ready for marriage, or you may have decided that marriage is just not for you. However, that does not mean you should go without many of the protections marriage offers. By signing a cohabitation agreement, you can make sure your interests are protected, even if your relationship does not last.

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