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Dealing with division of property when unmarried couples split

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With the divorce rate sky high, many Maryland couples opt to forgo marriage altogether and simply live together. While this may seem to be the ideal way to avoid a costly divorce should the relationship end, asset division is still something that must be considered. Many unmarried couples purchase cars, houses and other big-ticket items together, but when the relationship sours, these couples do not have the same rights or responsibilities as married couples. Because everything is treated as non-marital property, there could be issues regarding division of property if the assets are not titled properly.

When purchasing a home together, the most equitable way for a couple to title it is as joint tenants. This means that each person has a 50 percent share in the home. This also gives the other partner right of survivorship should one partner die. This means that the surviving partner would own 100 percent of the home.

Tenants-in-common is a more complicated title. Each person designates a share of the ownership, so one person could own 25 percent and the other 75 percent. In addition, when a person dies, the share does not automatically go to the surviving partner. Distribution is determined by a will, if one is in place. If not, then the beneficiary is determined by the state.

One thing to think about is that not all unmarried couples split up. Some stay together until one partner dies. If this is your plan, you will want your estate plan to reflect this. You will need to draft a will designating your partner as the beneficiary. If you die without a will, your assets will instead go to close relatives such as siblings and parents. So whether you are buying property or estate planning, be sure to make your intentions clear.

Source: FindLaw, "Unmarried Couples and Property - Basics," accessed Oct. 4, 2014

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