From taxes to parental rights, married couples enjoy a wide variety of legal benefits based on their marital status. If you and your partner have opted not to tie the knot, however, legally enforceable contracts may offer the greatest protection throughout the course of your relationship. We at Donna Dougherty Law PC are experienced in helping unmarried Virginia couples plan for their lives together.
Data from the latest census show that nearly 12 percent of cohabiting couples in the United States are unmarried, according to Time. If you belong to this category, here are some of the critical issues you should address via legally defensible contracts.
Property and estate planning
If you are ready to purchase a house with your partner, you should consider who will be listed as owner. Regardless of the financial contributions you each make to the purchase, only the person listed on the title can sell the property at will or claim tax deductions. If you elect to own the property jointly, remember that you cannot file taxes jointly, so it is worthwhile to determine who should claim any tax deductions related to property ownership.
In the event of your death, your partner may be left without home or inheritance if you do not have a viable will. Married couples generally have some shelter even if the deceased partner never created a valid will with respect to his or her estate, but the same does not hold true for unmarried couples who do not plan for the distribution of their estates.
Parenting, household management and no-nups
Married couples generally are considered the lawful parents of their children; however, this is not necessarily true for unmarried parents. If you and your partner have children, it is essential that you take necessary steps, such as establishing paternity, to ensure you both have parenting rights.
In addition to identifying parenting rights and responsibilities, it may be worthwhile for you and your partner to create a written plan for household management. This plan may specify divisions of labor and delineate the amount each individual will contribute to household expenses.
Prenuptial agreements are increasingly popular among couples planning to walk the aisle. Unmarried couples can draw up similar contracts (no-nups) to protect both partners in the event that your relationship comes to an end. A no-nup increases the likelihood that you and your partner can part ways smoothly and amicably.
Many unmarried couples find it helpful to seek professional counsel when drafting contracts for parenting rights, relationship agreements and estate management plans. Visit our web page to find out more about crafting legally enforceable documents to protect yourself and your partner.