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What happens to assets in an unmarried separation?

When you aren't married but live with another person for a long time, you may be wondering what happens if you decide to separate. Unlike in a marriage, there are few laws governing what happens to the items in your possession. Realistically, no matter how long you've been together, you are both going to be treated as people with separate property in the eyes of the law.

What should you do to make sure your shared assets are seen as shared assets?

Make sure to create contracts or to put both your names on credit cards, property or other substantial assets that you plan to share. If both names are on the property, then a court can help divide it equitably. If not, then you may find that the property goes to the person whose name is listed on the deed, billing address or bank account ID. That includes debts that were raised on your accounts but were for your partner or money you put into a partner's account that you earned.

What can you do to protect yourself if you want to buy a home with a partner who you aren't married to?

If you are looking to purchase a home together but aren't married, consider being joint tenants or tenants in common In the first, you're both tenants of the property and share it equally. In the second, you own a percentage of the property based on the amount you paid in. For instance, if the home was $100,000 and you paid in $35,000, then you'd have a 35 percent share of the property.

If you're not sure how your case will work out or want to make sure to designate property as your own, your attorney can help you draw up a contract or arrangement with your partner. The agreement will protect you both and can identify the property you share or the property you are keeping separate.

Source: FindLaw, "Unmarried Couples and Property - Basics," accessed Sep. 02, 2016

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