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It is very common in today’s world for unmarried people to live together, either by choice or because the law does not allow it. Unlike married folks, unmarried couples do not enjoy the benefit of having laws that govern the division of property, or providing for support at the dissolution of the relationship. Even though there are no such laws to govern these issues, unmarried couples are free to enter into contractual agreements that define their rights and obligations upon dissolution of the relationship.
Contracts, called cohabitation agreements, can be utilized in the situation where an unmarried couple is living together. In this case, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When these relationships break up, and sometimes they do, it is nice to have a predetermined plan on how to go about separating yourselves. If more people utilized these instruments, there would be many less headaches to go along with the “heartache” of dissolving a relationship.
Typically, the agreement will contain disclosures as to assets and liabilities of both parties. It will also define how expenses will be handled while the couple is living together. These agreements can be as simple or complex as needed, with provisions for things like who will own new purchases, whether the income will be pooled, etc. These agreements can also make provisions for what happens if the couple breaks up and can also answer questions like: How will property be divided? Will any support be provided? Are there events that would terminate the support obligation?
Executing a cohabitation agreement provides for more than the rights and responsibilities of the relationship. For some, it also has the effect of legitimizing the relationship. Some couples do not feel the need to get married, and other couples may be legally prevented from getting married. Some of the protections associated with marriage are available to these couples through properly drafted cohabitation agreements.
Wills can be utilized as effective tools for planning for the death of an unmarried partner. However, if you die intestate (without a Will) the state has an estate plan in mind for you and the Connecticut Laws of Intestate Succession make no provisions for boyfriends, girlfriends, or life partners.
Unmarried couples can face a lot of challenges, however they do have options. There are planning opportunities available to them. The law will not necessarily protect these relationships. Unmarried couples must take it upon themselves to plan in the absence of such protections.
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