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Kara K.
Kara K., Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 185
Experience:  14 years experience as a real estate attorney - licensed in 3 states
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I want to buy a house with my girlfriend. Were not ...

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I want to buy a house with my girlfriend. We''re not married and don''t want to be, but we both want to make sure we''re protected. What do we need to do and what benefits are we missing out on by not being married?
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Kara K. replied 9 years ago.
Hello, and thanks for contacting Just Answer,

You ask a very good question, and one that other people should ask more!

When you own property as joint owners, you each own a 50% interest (unless you designate a different percentage in the conveyance). This is not a problem when both people contribute about that percentage to the expenses - including the down payment, the mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, improvements, maintenance, etc...

The problem arises when one person contributes more than 50% and then they split up and the person who contributed more feels the situation is unfair. When a property is sold, everything is paid off and the balance should be split 50/50. This might seem unfair if one of the parties contributed 75% but only gets 50% of the sale proceeds. Or, as happened recently, one person gave the entire down payment on the house and wanted to get it back.

It is a good idea to consult with an attorney to have a contract drawn up which will determine how the proceeds of the house will be split in the event you and your girlfried split up. In that contract, you will also address how one person who may have contributed more to the purchase price will be paid out. It's always best to have everything worked out in advance. The cost of an attorney now will save you much more if there is a dispute in the future.

Another thing to think about - if one of you has credit problems, owes lots of money (such as high student loans), that person's creditors can obtain judgments and liens on the house. Also, the IRS can put a lien on the house for any delinquent taxes - so can the state. So, if those might be concerns, it would be better to have only one of you on the title of the house.

If you are married, you can take title to property as "Tenants by the Entirety" (TE). That is only available to married couples. Unmarried couples would take title as Joint Tenants (JT). The two types are very similar but the TE has added benefits - the creditors of one spouse cannot foreclose on the house for unpaid debts or judgments. But, if JT, a creditor could actually petition the court to sell the house to pay the judgment of one of the owners. Both tenancies allow the survivor to get full ownership if the other person passes away.

I hope this information helps - please feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.

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