Education Legal

Estates and Cohabitation

Millennials – we’re so changeable!

I don’t know if you subscribe to Tinfoil Hat Daily, but apparently, over brunches of gourmet, French press covfefe and avocado toast, our generation has been orchestrating a wanton serial slaughter of once inestimably precious American industry. Chain restaurants, golf, mayonnaise, and diamond rings! Yes, to hear mainstream media tell the tale, we’ve been bushwhacking an unparalleled path of carnage through the very heart of our “Middle America Roots,” (Thanks Business Insider) like a pack of rabid, stress-crazed, debt-saddled animals.

We get it. We’re a bunch of unmarried perma-renters who prefer ordering-in from the Cheesecake Factory because we would rather starve than subject ourselves to one more hour of bras and human interaction after a long day of soul-sucking underemployment.

But, it’s not just us! I was reading this New York Times article a few days ago about childless, unmarried seniors pooling resources and moving in with their friends, a la The Golden Girls, and it got me thinking – When the Boomer K-T Extinction occurs, what happens to the roommates? Who protects the interests of our friends, extended families, and unmarried partners after we pass?

Luckily, whether ‘roommate’ is your lifestyle, relationship status, or a little of both, you’ve got options.

1.) Get a cohabitation agreement:

What it is: A cohabitation agreement is essentially a legally binding contract between two cohabitants, similar to a prenuptial agreement. This agreement provides rights and obligations to both parties similar to those rights and obligations available to married couples, and almost always cover financial arrangements and issues with property, such as acquisition and distribution of assets in the event of separation or death.

What they do: Like any contract, cohabitation agreements can be tailored to suit the needs of each individual party. They can cover a wide range of issues, such as housing arrangements, business matters, and personal affairs. So, obviously, they are very helpful when it comes to avoiding future legal disputes. Especially since some states don’t have any specific laws addressing issues such as the rights of children of unmarried couples, the distribution of property, or how to care for pets upon the death of a cohabitant. Thus, you may wish to include such provisions in your agreement so that your interests are protected.

The fine print: As a rule of thumb, anything specified in a cohabitation agreement should be reflected in a will or trust. Keep your story consistent, so when the time comes no one can argue your intent.

How to get one: You can complete and file this document for cheap on all the usual sites, but LegalZoom and are the ones that jumped out to me.

2.) Set up a trust:

What it is: A trust is just a vehicle to pass assets to a trustee, who in turn holds those assets — in a trust fund — for a third party, such as a beneficiary. Trusts can be an appealing option if your aim is to minimize taxes, protect assets and avoid the probate process. Trust funds are generally thought of as being for the ultra-wealthy, but that’s not really true. Middle-class folks can use trusts as well, and setting one up isn’t entirely out of financial reach.

A trust is sometimes the best vehicle for unmarried couples to use since a trust generally can withstand the challenges brought on by family members better than probate.

What it does: The trust will spell out the legalities of what would happen if the trustee (the owner of the trust) dies, becomes disabled or becomes unable to transact on their own behalf. The owner of the trust can designate his/her partner as the successor trustee allowing the partner to manage the couple’s affairs.

How to get one: Just like other estate planning documents, you can generate a trust online. LegalZoom, RocketLawyer, and LawDepot are some of the more reputable.

To learn more about the importance of a good estate plan, please click through to read our post: Estate Planning 101.

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