Why unmarried older couples should consider cohabitation agreements

It goes without saying that social mores have evolved to a considerable degree over the last several decades. Indeed, the majority of people will not bat an eye at the thought of two people living together outside of marriage.

While cohabitation is then very common among younger people, it’s also becoming increasingly popular among older people. In particular, those who were previously married and, while wanting love and companionship, don’t necessarily want to entertain the possibility of another divorce.

In these sorts of arrangements, both spouses typically maintain their separate finances and debts, but share the cost of things like basic living expenses and rent/mortgage payments.

While this may seem like an ideal arrangement, experts caution that it can nevertheless present certain unforeseen complications. For instance, consider what happens if the couple live in a home owned by one of the spouses and, over the course of the relationship, the non-homeowner spouse funds some renovations to property.

Here, experts indicate that the non-homeowner spouse could conceivably have a claim to the home in the event of the death of their longtime partner, a reality that neither they nor any remaining adult children would likely want.    

What then can older couples in this situation do to protect themselves?

One possible answer is to consider the execution of a cohabitation agreement. For those unfamiliar with this legally binding document, it functions much like a prenuptial agreement in that it sets forth clear expectations concerning ownership of assets, division of property (if any) and responsibility for expenses.

While some may view this as unnecessary and potentially provocative, experts indicate that a cohabitation agreement really does nothing more than formalize an already existing understanding and grant some much-needed peace of mind.

What are your thoughts on this subject? 

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