If you are part of a long-term domestic partnership, then you already know that the law does not always provide you with many of the protections and privileges that married couples enjoy. The good news is that, with a little extra work, domestic partners can often still use the law to their advantage if they know where to look. One commonly overlooked area of protection for domestic couples is owning a home as joint tenants.
Joint tenancy has several benefits for domestic partners. If you've lived with your partner for any length of time, you probably already know that the rental market can be very frustrating, and a huge drain on your monthly budget. With joint tenancy, domestic partners can purchase a home and both enjoy the advantages of homeownership, because the property is legally and wholly owned by both parties. This entails access to greater borrowing power, the potential to access equity in the home, among other things.
Joint tenancy can also help you avoid potential problems when it comes tax time. If only one member of the domestic partnership owns the home, then the other member may be viewed by the IRS as receiving free rent while staying there. This can constitute a gift, and there are specific limits on how monetary value a gift can have before it is taxable. in real terms, gifts are left untaxed up to about $10,000 per person per year (although the specific number is adjusted yearly), which comes out to slightly more than $800 per month. If the property is not owned jointly, then simply living there may end up being a liability for the non-owning party.
These are only a few of the reasons to consider joint tenancy in a domestic partnership, and it is certainly a good option for many couples. If you believe that owning a piece of property through joint tenancy may be right for you, consider enlisting the aid of an experienced attorney to help walk you through the specifics and ensure that you are making the best use of the law for your circumstances.
Source: Findlaw.com, "Top 10 Reasons for Unmarried Partners to Own Property as Joint Tenants," accessed Oct. 28, 2016