Question 22
Will we buy a house together? 

Default answer:  Yes, most married couples eventually buy a home,
which is owned by both spouses as joint tenants,
having equal shares in its value, no matter who pays for it. 

     Real estate is one of the few things that married people
cannot easily own in their individual names. 
If they are married, then both must sign to buy or sell the property. 

     The law assumes that a married couple owns a house as
joint tenants with right of survivorship,
which means that when one of them dies,
the other automatically becomes the owner of the whole house,
without going thru any legal process and without paying estate taxes.

Creative answers:  A house can be bought and occupied
by people in any combinations that seem reasonable to them. 
They just need to put their ownership interests into writing: 

     One person can hold real estate if that person is not married. 
This means that the single owner has the right to sell the house,
even if others have contributed to its purchase. 
And the single person who is named on the deed
will get all the tax-benefits that come from home-ownership.

     If one person owns the home, the other partner(s) can pay rent,
based on rents for a similar amount of space in that neighborhood.
A simple rental agreement could set out the rights and responsibilities
of the owner and the renter(s). 
Such an arrangement will be easy for lenders to understand. 
And it will be easy to terminate if the relationship comes to an end.

     There are two dangers to be considered in individual ownership:
The one person who holds title to the house can sell it and pocket the money
even if others have contributed to the mortgage payments, etc. 
If the owner dies without a will, the property passes (thru probate)
to the 'next of kin' as defined by law in that state or country. 
An unnamed 'co-owner' gets nothing. 
One way to avoid this: The named owner writes a will,
leaving the whole house to the other partner(s) if he or she dies.
And if the relationship ends before death,
the will can be changed to name new beneficiaries.

Question 22:        WILL WE BUY A HOUSE TOGETHER?              by James Park              115

Above you have the first page of Question 22 from Designer Marriage.
Five more pages explore five more ways of owning real estate together.
All 6 forms of ownership are named in the table of contents below.

Return to the table of contents for

Designer Marriage: Write Your Own Relationship Contract

Created April 9, 2009; Revised

Return to the LOVE page.

Go to the opening page for this website:
An Existential Philosopher's Museum

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.