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Since their partnerships are not recognized by state law, Arizona’s unmarried, cohabitating couples face a unique set of legal obstacles in regards to property rights. For these couples, property agreements which outline assets, expenses, income, banking information and instructions for what happens to property in the event of a death or break-up can be incredibly beneficial.

A cohabitation property agreement is a vital document for unmarried, cohabitating couples who have accumulated common property, possibly including a home. This document can help determine what will happen to property in the event that one partner dies or how the property will be divided if the couple separates. Once drafted, an agreement can provide crucial guidance during these life changes and save partners financial and emotional stress.

Drafting a Cohabitation Property Agreement

When drafting a cohabitation property agreement, couples should determine what property-both physical and financial-each partner brings to the relationship. The agreement should list incomes, expenses, banking information and assets, how they will be managed while the couple is living together and how they will be divided in the event of a split.

Next, a cohabitation agreement should include information on any homes the couple owns together. It is important to declare that partners are either tenants in common or tenants with rights of survivorship in the deed to a house, since these clauses help partners maintain right to property in the event of a death or break-up.

“Tenants in common” means that in the event of the homeowner’s death, the entire home would go to an individual named in a will or trust. The “tenants with rights of survivorship” clause awards the deceased’s share of the home to an individual named in a will or trust. Naming one’s partner in one’s will or trust ensures they will inherit shared property.

Another detail that should be included in the agreement is the percentage of the home that each partner owns and how a buy-out may work in the event of a separation. For married couples, this is usually determined during divorce proceedings, but unmarried couples are not afforded this right, so including a clause in a property agreement can help the separation process go more smoothly.

Domestic Partnership Agreements

Cohabiting partners living in Tucson or Phoenix can also benefit from formalizing their relationship with those cities. Though the state does not legally recognize the relationship between unwed couples, these cities allow domestic partners to register their relationships. This arrangement grants significant others hospital visitation rights in the event that one partner is hospitalized at facilities within city limits. The document can be included with the property agreement as more “proof” of the permanent nature of the partnership.

Domestic partnership agreements are available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples that are in a committed relationship, over age 18 and not in a marriage or civil union to a third party.

Though unmarried couples face unique legal considerations when compared to their married peers, there are ways for them to legally protect their property rights and formalize their relationship. If you and your partner have questions about these issues, please contact an experienced family law attorney.

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