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What role nonmarital contracts play among cohabitating couples

Marriage is so much more than two people who are in love wanting to spend the rest of their lives together. Once you and your officiant sign you the marriage license, you've essentially become party to a legally binding contract that's not easily walked away from. Given that marriage is essentially a type of contractual agreement, it shouldn't come as a surprise that nonmarried couples can sign similar types of agreements as well.

Cohabitation agreements function similarly to prenuptial ones in that they allow those living together to clearly spell out the respective parties' roles and rights in the event relationship ends.

Nonmarital agreements are most ideal in long-term relationships or ones where the different parties maintain ownership of significant assets. Cohabitating seniors may particularly benefit from having this type of agreement in place to ensure their belongings are distributed to their heirs in accordance with their wishes once they pass on.

When writing this type of contract, it's important to know that it doesn't have to contain all of the same legalese that most legally binding agreements are expected to contain. Instead, it's completely acceptable for them to be written using straightforward language.

In addition to spelling out what assets a couple brings into the relationship as described above, it should also elaborate on what the couple's desires are with respect to property acquired during the time they're cohabitating. It should also specifically address how you, as a couple, wish to handle any instances in which one of you receives an inheritance or gift while living together.

Another topic that the agreement should address is who will be held responsible for which household bills. Some common ways of defining this is by saying that all bills will be paid via some type of proportional arrangement, split equally down the middle, or paid from a joint account each of you contributes funds to.

The agreement should also address what becomes of assets upon the couple's separation or if one partner dies. Not addressing this in this document leaves such decisions up to the probate judge's discretion.

Finally, the agreement should clearly address how any conflicts are desired to be worked out, including via arbitration, mediation or some other approach.

If you're considering moving in with your significant other, then you may benefit from first consulting with a Naples family law attorney before doing so.

Source: FindLaw, "Nonmarital agreement & living together contracts," accessed Sep. 22, 2017

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