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The trouble with buying a home before marriage

Photo of Karen Lavin

You and your significant other have been together for years. You don't want to get married, but you also don't want to keep paying rent. You decide to buy a home together. Is this wise?

This can work out, but it's very important to consider your legal rights if you break up.

If you buy the home jointly, putting both of your names on the paperwork, then you may be entitled to a 50/50 split if you separate. After all, you own half of the home. This is also true for married couples who buy a home together.

However, maybe your significant other has a better credit score. You decide that he or she will buy it alone, though a portion of your money will go toward those mortgage payments every month. You'll also help out with paying for maintenance, putting together a down payment and all the rest.

If you do this, it's wise to put down your intentions in writing. If you don't, and you break up, the home may legally just belong to your significant other. You'll have no way to claim your half, even though you have been paying just as much as he or she has. You need to show that you both had a common intention to share the home. That's hard without proof, especially if your significant other denies it -- essentially saying he or she owns the home and just let you live there -- so having a paper trail helps you tremendously.

Couples never like to talk about splitting up, which is understandable, but it's very important to consider when making any big financial investments together. You can do so without legally tying the knot, but don't assume you have all of the same rights as a married couple without taking extra steps.

Source: Findlaw, "Unmarried Couples and Property - Basics," accessed May 02, 2017

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