Unmarried Couples’ Property Rights

Unmarried Couples Property Rights

Deciding to get married can be a big commitment, both personally and financially. For some couples it is a no brainer to date for a few years and then get married, but for others it may not be so appealing for one reason or another. Unmarried couples can live together and celebrate their relationship in their own way which brings pros and cons. For instance, an unmarried couple may be eligible to pay a little bit less on their taxes if one of them may qualify as head of household. They will also be able to get more financial college aid, and in instances where the couple resides in community property states, they won’t automatically assume their significant other’s debt. However one big drawback, especially for couples who have spent their lives together, is property rights. Unmarried couples’ property rights can be tricky to navigate if there is a breakup or death but there are a few options to avoid legal battles for property.


If no document exists, significant others who end their relationship or experience the loss of a loved one have little rights to property not in their own name. Typically in cases of death, property is distributed down to children and if no children exist then it is distributed amongst relatives such as parents, siblings, aunts and uncles. An unmarried couples’ property rights can be protected with the presence of a legal last will and testament, a cohabitation property agreement or a marriage certificate.


In order for a will to protect the unmarried couple’s rights to property that each other owns, it must be called out directly in the document. The significant other must be named as a beneficiary to any property of their former partner, otherwise they may face a lengthy legal battle. The document must also be signed by the owner of the will, a witness that is not named a beneficiary in the will, and some states may require the document to be notarized.


Another option is for the unmarried couple to enter a cohabitation property agreement. This document must cover everything you and your significant other own and how it is shared. Items to include are physical property like real estate, monthly rent or mortgage payments and how they are split, bank accounts, lines of credit, insurance policies, and all other assets owned by each person. From here the cohabitation property agreement must state how the assets will be divided if the couple were to ever end their relationship. Each state may vary on how they legalize these documents, so be sure to research how to create a legally binding cohabitation property agreement in your state.


Last but not least is for the couple to have a marriage certificate, especially in the case of death. Without any of the above documents most property is passed onto the surviving spouse. If financing the cost of a big wedding is holding you back from getting married you still have affordable options. Going to city hall is one of the most affordable ways to get married – while it varies by state on average this costs anywhere from $35-$100. If you are still in good health, it may sound silly to worry about property rights between you and your significant other, but this becomes especially important as you grow older. A marriage certificate is public record, unlike a will or cohabitation agreement which can both be misplaced. The benefit to obtaining a marriage certificate is that you can always order a certified copy online or at your local town hall or clerks building. Getting a copy of a lost will or cohabitation agreement isn’t as easy and can leave you at risk of losing what you and your partner shared together for many years.


At VitalChek, we make ordering replacement vital records easy and secure. Quickly use our online ordering portal to obtain government certified marriage certificates, birth certificates, and more. Having these important records stored safely in your home can help you stay prepared in case of an emergency but we’ll also be there to help if you need to order more.


Leave A Comment