Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Cohabitation agreements and basic estate planning

Hoosiers do not often discuss the problems of living together or cohabitation agreements. When we do the topic seems to come up most in terms of gay marriage. What most people here overlook is that more than just gays and lesbians live together. True, heterosexuals living together but unmarried do the marriage option open to them.

You need to think about a a cohabitation agreement whenever either of you intend to mix assets and income without any plan of marriage. When you and your partner intermingle money there always exists the possibility for conflict and the cohabitation agreement provides a means for solving that conflict. Yes, you can go to court and let the court sort out the problem. Consider this post on the New Jersey Family Law Blog with this rather self-explanatory title: Unmarried couples who buy property together should consider a written agreement. The New Jersey factual scenario can occur here in Indiana. You can look at how Indiana's courts have treated these kind of cases here on my Indiana Divorce and Family Law Blog at this post: http://haslerlaw2.blogspot.com/2007/02/living-together-in-indiana-and-then.html .

Cohabitation agreements also serve in another kind of crisis: the death of a partner. Admittedly my views on cohabitation agreements did not originally include more of what I consider basic estate planning. I will say that the Indiana appellate court cases colored my views - they are wholly focused on the breakup of the relationship. My view changed and I think most people today think a cohabitation agreement should include Wills, powers of attorney and health care powers of attorney. Read the New Jersey Family Law Blog post I linked to above for a concurring opinion. Indiana probate law no more protects unmarried persons than do our family law statutes. The financial and emotional investments made with your partner may be lost during a serious illness and/or death.

Remember this as the bottom line for anyone living together and sharing a substantial amount of their income and assets: get a lawyer and get a cohabitation agreement.

No comments: