It’s not unusual for a couple to start shopping for a home before they get married. If you and your fiancé have been together for some time, you may both know what you want in a first home and prefer to get the purchase and the move out of the way before the wedding.
The question is, do you purchase the home together and put both of your names on the title? You may opt to do that. If you’re getting a mortgage, you’ll have two incomes, which can make getting an approval easier, and you may need both of your incomes to get the home you want. But what if something goes awry before the wedding? Do you want to be stuck owning a home together?
That’s one reason some couples put just one name on the title. It’s typically the partner with the most individual assets (or the most help from their parents). The other partner may still chip in on the down payment and contribute to mortgage payments, insurance and other expenses.
The risks to both parties if only one name is on the title
But, again, what if they decide not to marry? Regardless of what they have agreed to verbally, the person with their name on the title and the mortgage is the one who can be stuck paying for all home-related expenses.
If the couple marries, is the spouse who’s not on the title at a disadvantage? They can be. The home could be considered separate property if only one spouse put any money into it. However, in most cases, both spouses contribute to the cost of owning a home. This commingling of assets would likely give them claim to a share of it in a divorce.
The advantages of a written agreement
If you choose to have one name on the title, a prenuptial agreement can solve a lot of these potential issues (and many others). With a prenup, you can state the terms and conditions of what each person’s responsibilities are prior to marriage and in the case of divorce or the death of the spouse who holds the title.
You can also get a cohabitation or property agreement to codify financial responsibilities if the marriage doesn’t occur. When you’re talking about an investment as significant as a home, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.