Need advice on co-ownership of a house
February 26, 2013 12:50 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are looking into buying a house Do we need to get married in order to have protections relating to said house (including inheritance of the house if one of us dies + the ability to sell the house and divide the money if we break up)?

We can marry if we need to (that is, we're a heterosexual couple) but both feel somewhat uncomfortable with the institution of marriage and would like to either avoid it or put it off.

If we decide not to marry, what do we do so that co-ownership is assured and a) neither of us can run off with it (not that we would, this is just the kind of thing I always hear you should have protection for) and b) if one of us dies the other person would inherit it without question?
posted by NoraReed to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, and the fact that we're in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the USA is also probably relevant.
posted by NoraReed at 12:52 PM on February 26, 2013

You get a lawyer. The actual deed etc is straightforward, but you'll need a will to deal with inheritance and to deal with dissolution.

Don't get married just to buy a house.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:57 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

You need to consult a real estate attorney about how to hold title to the property. There are several ways to do it (joint tenancy, tenancy in common, etc). Your state probably has laws about how property must be titled among owners who are not married to each other.
posted by FergieBelle at 12:59 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

State law dictates the default; a lawyer puts together anything you want that's not the default.
posted by holgate at 1:05 PM on February 26, 2013

This should be fairly straightforward although I would consult a real estate attorney.

I bought a house with my husband with joint tenancy with right of survivorship years before we got married.

My mother did the same with her husband (10 years before they married) and they were in Santa Fe, NM.

Do not get married for a house.
posted by hrj at 1:06 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

We didn't use a lawyer when we bought a house before we were married. Neither the title company or our agent seemed to think that this was a bad idea. (we have joint tenancy.)
posted by vespabelle at 1:17 PM on February 26, 2013

You could simply set up an estate trust (with the house owned in one partner's name, but in trust to the other) and then have the other partner pay their share of rent to the first partner as a non-transferable loan. That way, if either partner dies, the loan cannot be repaid and the house goes to the surviving partner.

It seems unnecessarily complex to me, but I think it would work for your purposes. One advantage of this idea is that if you two ever decide to separate, this makes it relatively easy to do without a legal battle - one partner will get the house, but will have to repay all of the money that the other partner put into it.

Either way, consulting a lawyer to structure the agreement is a good idea.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:21 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think "joint tenancy" and "tenancy in common" are the phrases I needed to know-- I really had no idea where to start the search/conversation on stuff like this. Thanks, hivemind :D
posted by NoraReed at 1:57 PM on February 26, 2013

My boyfriend and I did this too - we just drew up an agreement with a lawyer as to who inherits, and what happens if we decide to split, and everything was fine.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:33 PM on February 26, 2013

We did what 5_13_etc did; it was fairly straightforward. "Joint tenancy with right of survivorship" was the key phrase for us.
posted by linettasky at 7:57 PM on February 26, 2013

My then-girlfriend-now-wife and I did this. Just go to a lawyer and explain what you want. S/he will draw up the paperwork. You will both sign it. It should cost no more than a few hundred bucks, and is easy.

And, by the way, paying a couple hundred bucks to a lawyer to draw something up to your specifications is well worth it, and effectively free as compared to the overall costs associated with buying a house.
posted by dersins at 11:46 PM on February 28, 2013

Another way of doing this would be one person buying the house and charging rent from the other person.
posted by WizKid at 1:46 PM on March 1, 2013

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