Living together, and unmarried? Join the crowd! More and more couples are holding off on those wedding vows, or scrapping the whole idea of marriage all together. In fact, recent research shows that only 26% of adults between the ages of 18 and 32 are married. What are they doing instead? Many are still in very committed relationships, and quite a few are happily living with their partner. They’re also comingling their assets and opening joint accounts to pay for expenses and vacations. Which means millennials certainly aren’t afraid of commitment. They simply aren’t in any hurry to tie the knot, or possibly don’t believe marriage is for them.
Now with any relationship, having open lines of communication about handling your money is important. When you’re living together, it’s absolutely a must-do! We’re here to help you get the conversation rolling.
Here are the five ways to align your finances with your partner:
#1: Decide who will manage your financial household.
Just like when you get hitched, living together means working through combining your finances. It doesn’t matter how you split up the bills and expenses. What does matter is that you come to an amicable agreement. A lot of couples find it easiest to have one person in charge of all things money-related: paying the bills, keeping track of debts, watching investments and savings. Now if you want to split up the workload, that’s perfectly fine too. But be open and honest from the get-go, and your relationship will be all the better for it.
#2: Think about loans.
Loans can oftentimes be tricky. If your relationship is serious, you may consider jointly purchasing assets, which probably means taking out loans together. Just like with married couples, if one person has good credit, and the other doesn’t, you may have trouble getting the financing you want. And if you get rejected for a joint loan, the individual with good credit will be more negatively impacted on their credit score. Again, keep the lines of communication open on this one, and be honest about your credit history before you try and take out financing.
#3: Understand the rules of homeownership.
There are plenty of possible scenarios here. Perhaps you already owned the property, and your partner now contributes financially to the monthly costs. Maybe it’s the other way around. Or maybe you both decide to buy a house together. Whatever the case may be, here are some general rules on homeownership:
- If the title of a house is in one person’s name, he/she is the owner.
- The owner has all the rights to sell the property, regardless of the financial contributions made by the partner.
- If the owner dies, the next of kin will have first dibs on the place, unless the owner puts in his/her will that someone else is next in line.
#4: Make sure your kids are taken care of.
The number of children living with unmarried parents is on the rise. If you’re cohabiting and have children, it’s possible that your partner may not have any legal rights to your kids. Likewise, your kids’ legal rights as survivors or beneficiaries may also be limited, unless you enter into a court-approved parenting agreement or legal guardianship. The laws involving children are state-specific and complex. It’s very important to consult with an attorney to make sure your kids will be financially taken care of should something happen to you or your partner.
#5: Do your legal paperwork.
We advise clients all the time to have their legal paperwork in order, and to review it regularly. In a cohabiting situation, it becomes even more imperative. You must remember that living together doesn’t give you any legal rights to your partner’s assets, unless it’s written out in your legal papers and estate documents. While it may sound overwhelming, an attorney can easily guide you and your partner through the process and ensure that your mutual wishes are spelled out on paper. Also, if you or your partner have any investment accounts that have beneficiary designations (such as retirement accounts), update your beneficiaries if you’d like to leave your investments to your partner in the future.
In any cohabiting relationship, getting a handle on where you and your partner stand financially will make things smoother down the road. Financial planning is also a great way to get an overview on how it all fits together. If you’d like us to review your current situation, we’d be happy to help! Click here to schedule a free intro appointment.