Same sex unmarried couples face a different set of legal issues than married couples. Failing to plan for the future is the number one mistake that partners make. Some of the home buying pitfalls for same sex unmarried couples are outlined below.
1. Consider putting both of your names on the deed. While it may be tempting to purchase a home with only one of your names on the deed, the partner’s name that is left off will a legal right to the home. This is true even if that partner contributes to the household and helps pay the mortgage. Note that there are other estate planning methods that can be used to protect a partner’s interest if his name is not on the deed. For more information, see our article Gay Couples, Estate Issues and Real Estate.
2. Failing to agree on what percentage each partner will own in the home. Unless you agree on this issue beforehand and either hold title by tenancy in common, where each partner can own the same or a different percentage of the real estate, or create a legal partnership agreement, you will both own the home equally in almost all states according to Nolo Law for All. This pitfall may become an issue if one of you pays a larger percentage towards the purchase or the expenses involved in owning the home. For more information, see our article Top 5 Ways to Protect Yourself When Purchasing a Home With Your Partner.
3. Assuming that each partner will pay half of the mortgage payment, insurance and taxes as well as the utilities and maintenance. If one partner makes substantially more than the other partner, it would fair to come to an agreement as to what percentage each partner will pay that both parties are comfortable with. Discussing this issue and coming to an agreement before purchasing your home can help avoid disputes down the road.
4. Failing to decide what will happen to the real estate should your relationship dissolve. If one of you moves out of the home, how will the real estate be dealt with? For example, will one partner have the right to buy the other partner out, will the home be sold to a third party, and, in that case, who will pay the bills until the home is sold? This issue should be discussed and your decision included in your partnership agreement.
5. Failing to create a will to protect your partner. Unless ownership of the home is held by joint tenancy with right of survivorship or a will is prepared that bequeaths the deceased partner’s ownership in the home to the surviving partner, the deceased partner’s portion will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy of the state of residence. Intestacy laws relate to who directly inherits from a deceased person and generally includes wife, children, parents and then siblings. Unmarried partners, even if they own a home together, cannot inherit according to the intestacy laws in all states.
Taking steps to avoid the home buying pitfalls for same sex unmarried couples will help protect both you and your partner in the event of death or dissolution of the relationship. The above information is not intended as legal advice. Same sex couples who intend to purchase a home together should consult an LGBT real estate agent from seasoned sites like GayRealEstate.com for expert help in the purchasing process.